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One Portland group hoping to reduce violence by bringing law enforcement and the community together is the Community Peace Collaborative.


PORTLAND TRIBUNE: ADAM WICKHAM - At last weekend's event supported by the Portland Peace Collaborative, Shauncey Mashia speaks about the loss of her brother, Leonard L.J. Irving Jr., surrounded by family members.After the shooting deaths of black men Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by law enforcement in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Baton Rouge, Lousiana, and the murder of five police officers in Dallas, Texas, there are a lot of calls around the country for dialogue and reconciliation between African-Americans and police.

One Portland group hoping to reduce violence by bringing law enforcement and the community together is the Community Peace Collaborative.

The peace collaborative is a forum that brings together public officials and community members to reduce gun and gang violence by improving relations between residents and members of the criminal justice system. Regular participants include employees of the Portland Police Bureau, the Mayor's Office, Multnomah County Department of Community Justice Services, gang outreach workers, and churches, social service agencies and community organizations.

Approximately 80 people usually attend the biweekly meetings held at the North Portland Community Policing Center, where volunteer opportunities are frequently announced for upcoming events.

"It's an opportunity for the community to engage in conversation and feel empowered with the police, the mayor, the bureaucracies around the table," says Antoinette Edwards, director of the city Office of Youth Violence Prevention, who co-chairs the meetings. "It's the collaborative of community folks and interests coming together for a common good."

After the events of last week, Edwards says she believes the next meeting on July 15 will be an emotional one.

"I think people will come with emotions, with hurt, with fear, anger and that's OK," Edwards says.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: ADAM WICKHAM - Portland Peace Collaborative co-chair Antionette Edwards attended the weekend 'Stand Up and Step Out' event at Peninsula Park.Last Friday, a mother who regularly attends the meetings came to Edwards' office.

"She was crying and said, 'What do I tell my son? What do I tell my son?'" Edwards says.

That is just one example of the type of emotion that often comes up at the meetings.

Tom Peavey, policy manager for the Office of Youth Violence Prevention, says he hopes the meetings will help individuals in the community heal.

"We're all responsible for healing," Peavey says. "The greatest thing we can do at this point is help our community members heal."

Edwards says she hopes community members will come to the meeting ready to discuss the myriad issues surrounding the relationship between police officers and the African-American community.

"These are some challenging times," Edwards says. "We all get to choose and we all get a role that we get to play. We get to choose what we do with this moment with this time."

At the meetings, different groups, including Portland Parks & Recreation, report on their programs for young people. The meetings also bring in mothers, ex-gang members and other community leaders to talk about various ways to reduce violence.

"It's a place where everyone shares an equal power," Edwards says. "It's a safe place to talk, to listen, to learn."

Multiple organizations have been sheltered by the peace collaborative, including the community-led organization Enough is Enough PDX, which encourages people to take a stand against gang violence in their community. It was started by five mothers in July 2014.

The Community Peace Collaborative began in 2005 as the Gang Violence Task Force, and was largely focused on law enforcement efforts to curb gang violence. In September 2014, the group was renamed the Community Peace Collaborative and began focusing on community efforts to curb violence. The most recent Gang Enforcement Team statistics are still released at each meeting.

"Reducing violence is not a law enforcement issue primarily," Peavey says. "It's a community trauma-based issue."

Trauma is an issue that the peace collaborative addresses in each of their meetings. Members of the community talk about their perceived traumas caused by violence in their neighborhoods. Peavey says the community engagement allows for treatment of that trauma.

"If you don't deal with those traumas and offer them physical support, it may lead them to incarceration or violence," Peavey says.

Various mental health professionals from the county and city attend the meetings to offer support to community members who have experienced trauma.

Edwards calls the current relationship between Portland police and the African-American community a work in progress.

"I think we are working on it," Edwards says. "I see growth, I see change, I see hope."

To learn more, visit tinyurl.com/jyv2oqc.

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