Portland police need statewide assistance, but also need internal reform
Portland, and the entire state, stand at a crossroads. Almost everyone is thinking about policing: How it's been done, how it could be done better. If we, as a state, can get on the same page, we could create a systemic change in Portland that would turn heads the world 'round.
If any community can do it, it's Portland.
Last week, Gov. Kate Brown unveiled a unified law enforcement initiative to crack down on the city's nightly arson and violence, without violating constitutional rights regarding free speech and assembly. Her plan would require Gresham police, and the sheriff's departments of Washington and Clackamas counties, to assist Portland police. She was met by a hailstorm of protests from the state's sheriffs and chiefs of police.
We strongly urge them to reconsider.
The law enforcement leaders said they hadn't been alerted in advance to her proposal. If true, that's poor communication and poor staffing on the part of the governor and her office. She should own it, apologize, and reiterate how important her plan is. It's the first hint of a coordinated light at the end of the tunnel anyone has produced to date.
Once they get their apologies for the reported communications gaffe, the law enforcement leaders should jump at the chance to say "yes."
Portland now faces an unfair and inaccurate image as a city on fire. Yes, we've had almost nightly violence for three months straight. But the destruction is isolated to a few blocks and a few buildings. It's terrible for sure. It must come to an end. But the city has not been destroyed.
This sad and inaccurate image hurts Portland, but it hurts the suburban communities, too. And the rest of the state. It's in everybody's best interest to bring the violence to an end — the sooner, the better. The Portland Police, alone, haven't been able to do it. With a coordinated, combined effort by other cities, the counties, the State Police, the local FBI, and the U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon, we could get to an end of the violence while still supporting and protecting the Black Lives Matter protests.
That would be a win-win for every community in the state. We've all got a stake in this, and we hope the sheriffs and chiefs of police won't let hurt feelings get in the way of a potential solution.
The newly formed group Reimagine Oregon — consisting of many of the state's most prominent African American community leaders — has created a 40-point plan for changing the practices of policing for the cities, the counties and the state. Some of these demands already are becoming a reality. Some should, and some are impractical.
But none of them come from a place of despair or hatred of police, as some naysayers have suggested. All of these suggestions come from Oregonians who want a better Oregon and are convinced it can come about.
It's time to stop casting this debate as "Blue Lives Matter" vs. "Black Lives Matter." Many elected officials already have joined Reimage Oregon (reimagineoregon.org) and are working on better policing for everyone in the state; people of color, police officers — all of us.
If we find a better way to conduct policing, every single Oregonian will benefit. And it's past time for the law enforcement leadership to come on board with that notion.
Last week, Daryl Turner, Portland Police Association president, said city leaders should impose a zero-tolerance policy for violence. Two days later, Oregon Public Broadcasting — a news partner of Pamplin Media Group — released a video of a police officer chasing down an unarmed volunteer medic at a protest, throwing him to the ground, and repeatedly punching him. The man, Tyler Cox, is an intensive care unit nurse at Oregon Health & Science University. He was treated for head injuries and then taken into custody. An officer allegedly told Cox, per OPB, "Yeah, well, you punched (the arresting officer). So, you assaulted the officer… it's all on video. We got all the evidence."
The video made for OPB and one taken from a different angle by another observer do not show Cox hitting the officer.
Daryl Turner, the city does need a zero-tolerance policy for violence. It should start with the arrest and trial of arsonists and looters, but it has to include the ranks of Portland Police. Too many of our journalists have been battered by police this summer. Too many videos show police assaulting peaceful community members. We can chalk it up to the fatigue of working every night for three months. We can chalk it up to improper training or insufficient leadership from the command staff. Whatever the cause, it is now beyond doubt that Portland Police have not de-escalated the violence.
What we need right now are the area's sheriffs and chiefs to lend a hand to a beleaguered police department, and for Portland Police — from the mayor/police commissioner to the chief, to the command staff, to the union and the rank-and-file — to join with others and reimagine a way of doing policing that makes life safer for all residents of Oregon. Including those who wear the blue. If law enforcement and reformers want to own the solution, they must first own the problem.
This is a make-or-break moment for the city and the state. Get this right, and we can show the rest of the world that this is still the city we love.
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