Letters: Council should not support more police
Mayor Ted Wheeler's support for increasing the Portland Police Bureau's budget by $12.3 million for an additional 93 sworn positions is gravely mistaken; this increase should not be included in the budget he will propose on April 30.
Those directly traumatized by police violence and their allies have overwhelmingly demonstrated that increasing the number of officers in our communities — and especially in disadvantaged, immigrant and communities of color — will not make us feel safer. Safer communities will be better achieved by increasing investment in community services rather than policing.
Overpolicing in poor communities of color, and particularly overpolicing of African-American residents, has been well-documented nationally and in Portland. A recent report by the Portland city auditor showed that African-Americans are vastly over-represented in traffic stops by the gang enforcement unit. The bureau cannot demonstrate that these stops reduced gang activity, much less resulted in effective contacts with people involved in gangs.
For many years, the Portland Police Bureau also has failed to deal effectively and humanely with people experiencing mental health crises. In 2012, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation confirmed the police bureau consistently engages in "unnecessary or unreasonable force during interactions with people who have or are perceived to have mental illness." Since then, we have seen no substantial reduction in harm or in officer complaints.
According to data collected by the Mental Health Association of Portland, the average number of shootings by police has stayed the same or increased since the DOJ settlement. Of those wounded or killed by police gunfire since 2012, a higher percentage were found to be experiencing mental health or addiction-related issues when they were shot.
Police use of force has continued to increase despite enormous Portland Police Bureau spending to create a Behavioral Health Unit and implement Enhanced Crisis Intervention Training. Alarmingly, a recent review of PPB found no difference in arrests between officers with or without Enhanced Crisis Intervention Training. Scientific research shows, on the other hand, that mental health services, treatment for substance use disorders, and recovery support services by trained peers, are the only proven methods for crisis intervention.
Experts trained in de-escalation should be called upon in cases where a person presents a danger to themselves or others. Police officers are simply inappropriate responders to mental health crises.
Symptoms like gang violence and property crime, which Wheeler uses to justify increasing the police budget, cannot be fixed by attempts to warm relationships between "community" police and residents. No amount of reconciliation by police can solve what research has demonstrated: The social ills of economic inequality, racism, discrimination and displacement only exacerbate individual and familial trauma, frustrate recovery and lead people to commit more crimes.
What are the solutions? As Care Not Cops, a local grassroots effort, has voiced, the city should redefine safety in terms of human well-being. True safety and well-being will be accomplished by investing in and coordinating housing, health care — including mental health care — food security, education and living-wage jobs providing necessary services.
Professor Emerita, Portland State University for Portland Metro People's Coalition and Shannon Garcia, Co-Chair National Lawyers' Guild-Portland
So many chiefs at OHSU
Oregon Health & Science University these days sure doesn't lack for "top brass" positions with top salaries that can produce record PERS benefits — the loss recently of its president and chief executive officer notwithstanding.
Think about it.
A provost and executive vice president.
A chief executive officer.
Several academic, research, administrative, and foundation vice presidents.
Not to mention a position or two with responsibilities mirroring a chief operating or financial officer.
And, of course, a cluster of deans.
Even a position with, somewhat confusingly, three titles in one: executive vice president, chief administrative officer, and chief of staff. One would logically think perhaps the person with the three titles could be asked to step in for the university's suddenly departing CEO.
But no, the CEO's job is probably one that triggers yet another national search, led by a highly paid search firm, that's guided by a selectively picked search committee (pretty much made up of inherently elite interests), all paid for of course with the university's unique mix of public and not so public monies — dollars expended at times with little more than a shallow "sign off" by a governing board of directors supposedly responsible for the prudent use of those funds, but a board which of late hasn't truly reflected the actual representation it's statutorily required to reflect, let alone the inclusive representation it ought to reflect.
Geez, how much longer must Oregonians await the governor and the Legislature stepping up to the plate here and straightening out the cluttered, duplicative, and just plain way out of whack echelon OHSU's leadership has been allowed to become?
Hopefully, not a heck of a lot longer.
Stats show minority workers harmed
With all of the "fake news" going around, it is safe to say that showing sources to backup facts is a must, so here are some facts with sources:
As of April 2018, the minimum wage in the Portland metro area is $11.25, the average rent for a single bedroom apartment in Portland is $1,420, a 0 percent decrease compared to last year (rentcafe.com). We can conclude that in order for a person on minimum wage to afford living in an apartment by themselves, one would have to work over 126 hours in two weeks.
With fast food chains providing a large portion of minimum-wage jobs, they do not provide a livable wage for people. Fast food employees across the mid-southern United States are advocating for a higher minimum wage and have been protesting since early January, 2018.
On Feb. 5, they all walked out of their jobs to begin protesting to have the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour. The fast food employees were joined by thousands of other workers protesting in two dozen cities across the nation. It's been dubbed the New People's Campaign.
Today, the fight for $15 says that politicians have cut minimum wage and targeted unions across the nation while disproportionately harming minority workers. They claim that lawmakers, like Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, have been attacking union jobs in state and local governments.
"To truly defeat systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation, all working people must have the freedom to come together and harness their power collectively," said the Rev. William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival.
Acts like this would explain why Portland's homeless population had increased 10 percent from 2015 to 2017 (portlandmercury.com).