OPINION M26-217: Portland's current system can't hold police accountable
Police accountability is more than a political issue to faith leaders in Portland — it is also a moral and spiritual issue.
When an unarmed community member is killed at the hands of those who are authorized to protect and serve, or when excessive force is used against a resident of Portland by a police officer, it becomes both a legal and moral issue.
Furthermore, it not only creates a loss and trauma to the family and community, it also chips away at the trust held between the community and police — especially when those community members who've been impacted by police violence have never had an officer held accountable, either by the Portland Police Bureau or the criminal justice system.
This divide becomes a wedge that further fractures communities at times when we most need to come together and heal.
The degradation in trust between the police and the community is at an all-time high. Worse, it jeopardizes the ability of the police to credibly perform their duties. We need transformative change and we need it now!
We have worked for decades, both within the system and outside of it, with leaders from Portland's diversified communities and with faith leaders from many spiritual traditions on issues of investigation, training, policies, and accountability. Yet none of our hard-fought, hard-won changes have improved the lived experience for our Black and brown sisters and brothers, nor for Portlanders with mental illness. Still, and too frequently, our neighbors within these marginalized communities are unjustly killed or brutalized by Portland police.
Since 2003, with the killing of an unarmed Black woman named Kendra James by a Portland police officer, we have demanded the creation of a truly independent Community Police Oversight Board, fortified with the power to compel officer testimony and enact discipline of police officers who have engaged in misconduct.
The current accountability system is ineffective. It sorely lacks the power to hold Portland police officers accountable for the use of unjust deadly force and excessive force against the members of our communities.
The lack of justice for residents and communities of color — especially Black, brown, and those with mental illness — cause us to support Measure 26-217, Real Police Accountability, to fulfill the pursuit of justice in creating a real, reasonable and fair accountability system, imbued with the power to enact lasting, positive change.
Together, by voting yes on Measure 26-217, we, as a unified community, will create a new model for the City of Portland — and the nation — while bringing healing to our city.
The Rev. LeRoy Haynes is pastor of Allen Temple CME and chair of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform. The Rev. W. J. Mark Knutson is pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church and a charter member of the AMA Coalition Steering Committee.
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