Lake Oswego moves forward with process on examining community policing
The city of Lake Oswego has begun the process of securing a facilitator to help move discussions forward with citizens about their experiences with local police.
After the Lake Oswego City Council decided to examine community policing at the council level last month, city staff presented a preliminary process to the council July 21, which would allow people to share a diversity of viewpoints on public safety in the community.
"After the murder of George Floyd, it is important for the city to determine how we simultaneously address systematic discrimination in policing while recognizing that police work is important and difficult," said Assistant City Manager Megan Phelan in her staff report. "Additionally, we need to ensure that the work the police department does is in line with our community expectations and values, and make sure that our officers are clear about these expectations, along with providing them the training and skills necessary to accomplish this work."
Phelan shared the three main components of the process that staff was recommending.
"The first component is a community kickoff event or launch that would outline the goals and objectives of the process," Phelan said.
She added that prior to the event, the facilitator would need to ensure the council is clear about the goals of the project.
The second component is for the facilitator — with city staff assistance — to engage the community in small group discussions to gain diverse viewpoints and ensure everyone can participate. The facilitator would then report the results of those focus group discussions back to the council to figure out what next steps should be taken.
Phelan said, at that point, the work wouldn't end.
"If anything, it might be the very beginning," she said.
Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff asked if the discussions about community policing would center on race.
Phelan said the focus would be on systemic racism and policing, but added staff was open to council feedback on whether it should be expanded.
Councilor John Wendland said he wants to look at the entire process.
"I want the racism obviously addressed, but I think — aren't we looking at the police department as a total to say, 'Hey, what are we doing now? What do we need to be doing and what are the actions; what are the policies or directives that need to be put in place to be better and to be a better police department moving forward?'" Wendland said.
Council President Jackie Manz added to Wendland's thought by saying it's important to bring the idea of policing into the 21st century and beyond.
"I definitely feel that leading with race is a primary function of what we're doing here," said Manz, adding she thinks it's a multipronged unbundling where the council also has to examine what the police do on a daily basis to better serve the community.
Councilor Skip O'Neill, a longtime resident of Lake Oswego, said he noticed change within the police department when Don Johnson became the chief prior to current Lake Oswego Police Chief Dale Jorgensen. He said it changed from looking at how to catch Lake Oswego "screwing up" to focusing on helping people understand that mistakes they're making can harm themselves or others. He said Jorgensen has taken that legacy from Johnson.
"We need to do more of what we're already doing well," said O'Neill, adding that there's always time to improve, but that he doesn't want to dwell on issues that happened 25 years ago. He'd rather focus on issues that are relevant and happening today.
Councilor Daniel Nguyen said it only needs to happen once for a person to have an experience, and that the council has to be careful not to diminish someone's experience just because it happened a long time ago.
"Time should not be something that puts a limit on people's feedback," Nguyen said.
The city expressed interest in continuing the work around community policing during August, when the council usually takes a recess.
"The exact process and several key details are still unknown," the staff report read. "City staff will rely on the selected facilitator to help finalize the process to ensure we are meeting the City Council's expectations."
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