Portland budget's police reforms draw testimony from 750
Portland residents pushed well beyond the slate of proposed police reforms already on the table for the city's budget during a virtual City Hall meeting on Wednesday, June 10.
Around 750 people signed up to give testimony by phone, and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said the Council had been deluged with more than 61,300 emails on the topic. Around 1,500 people live-streamed the meeting, despite the fact that no vote was possible until Thursday, as it requires four votes to pass the spending plan, and Mayor Ted Wheeler was absent while mourning the death of his mother. The seat of the late Commissioner Nick Fish, who died this winter, remains vacant.
Hardesty, Wheeler and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly have all proposed changes, some overlapping, to the budget; Wheeler has released a 19-point plan that would redirect $12 million to communities of color, with $7 million taken from the Portland Police Bureau and the rest from other departments.
Hardesty has called to expand the homeless outreach Rapid Street Response pilot from one team to six, and send more money to disenfranchised youth.
"For too long we have assumed that community safety means armed individuals patrolling out streets. What we know is that has not kept us safe," Hardesty said.
During her time in Portland she has worked with 14 police chiefs, she said, yet "the culture within Portland Police Bureau has not changed one iota."
Eudaly said she wants at least $1.8 million for reparations for black/indigenous people of color, and to eliminate 50 vacant full-time equivalent positions within PPB, and joined Wheeler in calling for local officers to no longer manage or participate in TriMet's transit security force.
"This is no time for equivocation or incrementalism," Eudaly said.
But many speakers pushed the City Council to adopt a policy proposal developed by Unite Oregon and the Portland African American Leadership Forum. Their demands include immediately cutting $50 million from PPB's budget, eliminating SWAT and gun violence teams, diverting all marijuana tax money away from police, halting the use of tear gas and rubber bullets at protests, and ending sweeps of homeless camps.
"There is no policing that does not threaten us," Joy Alise Davis, executive director of the leadership forum, testified at the budget hearing. "Whether the police chief is black or white, Portland Police have always been violent in the defense of whiteness and private property."
Many speakers agreed. Andrew Riley from Unite Oregon said their demands were "…simple. Defund Portland Police."
Others yielded their time to people of color.
"Two minutes is all I have, and it's over six minutes less than Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd's neck," said Timothy Ho of the Cully neighborhood, in reference to the death in Minneapolis Police custody that spurred nearly two weeks of protest in Portland and across the world.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz was an audio-only presence at the meeting. She did not give an opening statement. Testimony was set to continue until 7 p.m. Wednesday and continue on Thursday, June 11, ahead of the budget vote.
Follow me on Twitter
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.