Hillsboro officials are seeking applicants to serve in a group that will advise the chief of police on how to build trust in the community.
The Hillsboro Police Community Advisory Group will act strictly in an advisory capacity, making recommendations to Chief Jim Coleman about community engagement, programming, public education and other policing matters, according to the city's website.
The Hillsboro City Council approved the creation of the group last December as part of work to bolster police oversight.
"We feel like we have an enormous amount of work and opportunity that could be realized by having community members look at things like our policies or even just how we engage the community," Coleman said in an interview. "What are the blind spots, how can we improve that? What are the impacts of our policies and practices?"
He said topics of discussion will likely be wide-ranging, from compliance with legislative change to how to make officers more approachable and how to address community concerns such as homelessness.
The key to having an effective group will be having members with a wide range of perspectives from diverse backgrounds, Coleman said.
While doing so is a primary goal, he added that forming a group that accurately reflects all members of the community will in part depend on who applies to be part of the group.
Adult residents and people who work in Hillsboro can apply to be part of the group by Oct. 1.
The group will meet monthly and be composed of seven members selected by Chief Jim Coleman, serving for a term of two years.
One member of the group will be a youth representative. Three alternates will also be selected to serve as backup members in case an active member cannot complete their term.
Members cannot have been convicted of a felony in the last ten years. Applicants with a felony conviction of more than 10 years old or who have a misdemeanor conviction may be considered for appointment on a case-by-case basis.
The group will annually vote to select two co-chairs who will work in partnership with the chief and the department's law enforcement analytics manager to set topics for discussion on meeting agendas.
The law enforcement analytics manager will serve as a facilitator for the group, training members to familiarize them with information relevant to topics of discussion and possible recommendations.
The group will rely on quantitative and qualitative data to inform discussions and recommendations, according to the "guiding principals" section of the city webpage about the group.
Among other points, the section also provides that the group will "respectfully seek to understand the varying perspectives on public safety and its impacts on the community."
Training during the first few months will be spent providing an overview of the department, structure, and operations, according to the city's website.
Members can discuss matters with the chief openly, but any official recommendations by the group must be formally presented by the co-chairs to the chief during a scheduled regular meeting.
The group will provide an overview of its current work at least quarterly to be posted to the city's website.
City officials started to publicize the application in several languages on Sept. 1, said Patrick Preston, spokesman for the city, in an email.
To recruit applicants, the city shared information about the group in multiple newsletters and social media posts, including its entirely Spanish language Facebook page, Preston said.
Officials also made information available on reader boards in city facilities, in emails to community partners and in-person at farmers markets, he said.
Hillsboro Police Department staff also consulted with the city's equity team to receive feedback on how to engage with the community during the recruitment process.
Coleman said applicants will be vetted by him and other department officials using their applications and through an interview process.
He said officials are currently working to determine the composition of an interview panel that could include members of the community.
Whether applicants have the time to dedicate to the group and a demonstrated commitment to its purpose will play a big role in who is selected to the group, Coleman said.
The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement states on its website that members of civilian police oversight groups should not appointed by police chiefs to ensure independence.
Although Hillsboro's advisory group was created as part of a process to bolster oversight of police, the group is not tasked with oversight of police, Preston said.
The group is not endowed with any authority, administrative accountability or legal responsibility.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, many cities across the country went much further to involve citizens in police operations, creating oversight groups with the authority to make policies, review police uses of force and discipline officers.
In Portland, voters passed a ballot measure last fall that dissolved a previous police oversight board and replaced it with a new one with the authority to subpoena documents, compel officers under investigation to testify and share investigative findings with the public.
No such boards have been created in cities in Washington County.
The Hillsboro Police Department is currently working toward creating an internal use-of-force review board, Coleman said.
Creating an external use-of-force review board made up of citizens, rather than city officials, was an option presented to the City Council last winter.
City Councilor Kyle Allen suggested contracting or establishing an independent review board for "serious issues" during a work session in December, according to minutes from the meeting. Councilors Olivia Alcaire and Anthony Martin expressed support for the suggestion.
Coleman said Hillsboro's advisory group has the ability to evolve based on the needs of the community.
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