Council focuses on police reforms this week
Portland's City Council will consider several police reform measures this week in response to ongoing protests about police brutality.
They include a move to defund the Portland Police Bureau's Gun Violence Reduction Team and it's share of the Transit Police, along with a preview of at least three bills to be introduced at the next session of the Oregon Legislature by the People of Color Caucus.
Mayor Ted Wheeler has also said he will present reforms to end systemic racism that are not yet available.
Discussions could start at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 9, when the Multnomah County Tax Supervising & Conservation Commission hosts a hearing on the budget already approved by the council to take effect on July 1. Although the purpose of the state-required hearing is to ensure the budget complies with state budgeting laws, all members of the council are scheduled to attend. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has already said she would ask the council to defund the two PPB units before it takes effect.
Hardesty argues that the two units — along with school resource officers — have a disproportionate impact on communities of colors. Wheeler agreed to end the program that assigns police officers to patrol schools in Portland last week. He has also agreed to divert $1 million from the PPB budget to "a community-driven process to help black children."
The final council vote on the approved budget is then scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10.
It is unclear whether Hardesty has three votes necessary for the last two cuts. Although Commissioner Chloe Eudaly has signaled support, Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz have yet to comment.
The next day, Thursday, June 11, the council is scheduled to hold a work session with the nine-member People of Color Caucus, beginning at 9 a.m. The coalition has announced that it will introduce at least three measures for the upcoming special session that is expected to be called in response to state and funding problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The issue is simply two words: Accountability and Trust. Both are broken. It will take a major effort to establish them in our society. The myth that the system was sound has been overturned. Now the work begins," said state Sen. Lew Frederick, who represents parts of North and Northeast Portland, when the measures were announced on June 2.
The three measures are:
• A bill from the last two sessions that would prohibit an arbitrator from lessening disciplinary action against a law enforcement officer if the arbitrator and the law enforcement agency determine that the officer has committed misconduct. The concept has been approved twice unanimously by the Senate, first as Senate Bill 383 in 2019 and then as SB 1567 in 2020.
• A new legislative concept that would authorize and require Oregon's attorney general to investigate and prosecute, if the evidence dictates, any death or serious physical injury resulting from the use of force by a law enforcement officer. The POC Caucus believes that independent investigations are necessary for all cases where law enforcement kills or seriously injures civilians.
• A request that the House Interim Committee on Judiciary immediately convene a bipartisan work group to recommend changes to the state's laws regarding use of physical force or deadly physical force in making an arrest or in preventing an escape. The work is intended to lead to a bill for the regular 2021 legislative session.
Members of the Oregon Legislative People of Color Caucus include state Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon (D-Woodburn), Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley), Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-Portland), Rep. Akasha Lawrence Spence (D-Portland), Rep. Mark Meek (D-Oregon City), Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D- Portland), state Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) and Sen. James Manning (D-Eugene).
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the council work session and hearings will be streamed online and shown on community TV. You can find more information on how to watch and testify on the city's website at www.portlandoregon.gov/auditor/26979.
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