Answers, please…

OK, we admit it’s a lot of text, but we couldn’t resist asking the candidates for City Council a few questions before commitments were made.

Here is the first of several questions we asked of the candidates for Commissioner No. 3, currently held by Dan Saltzman. Saltzman, along with candidates Jesse Cornett, Michael Courtney, Ed Garren, Martha Perez and Mary Volm responded with their answers.  Jason Renaud responded that his campaign is not longer active and Spencer Burton and Rudy Soto did not submit answers.)

What we wanted to know off the bat is what most people are wanting answers for as well: If elected, what would your agenda be in the first year to restore the public’s trust in the Portland Police Bureau and the oversight process?

Jesse Cornett

I am the only candidate for City Council, including the incumbent Police Commissioner, to release a detailed plan for much tougher oversight and accountability of the Police Bureau. My plan, available at jessecornett.com, addresses the following points:

– Recruitment, to ensure that we have a police force that looks like the citizens of Portland;

– Training, ensuring our officers are prepared for the demands that they meet on the street;

– A Return to Community Policing, getting officers out of their cars and onto the sidewalks of our neighborhoods;

– Eliminating Racial Bias, requiring a top to bottom independent review to determine the extent of bias;

– Taking Care of Officers, to make sure that those sworn to protect have the necessary tools to ensure that they can handle the stress of their job; and

– Accountability, Portland needs to do a better job holding Police Officers accountable for their actions.

Mike Courtney

I think I would first attempt to change the public dialogue and bring a broader focus to the issue. There is a deafening silence on all the successes of our police department and the areas of law enforcement where they are leading the nation. The entire public conversation hashes over the headline controversies and exacerbates the problem and polarizes our community in a very negative way. If more effort were spent on what is right and the positive directions and successes, we would navigate the system into a more positive and united result.

Ed Garren

Bringing about reform of the policies, practices, procedures and (among some officers) attitudes within the Portland Police Bureau. Too many officers appear to have a “Rambo” mentality, with no negotiation skills, little ability to de-escalate a potentially conflictual situation, and obviously have little respect for many members of our community.

The bureau also appears to be one of the vestiges of the racist history in our region.  Former officers of color have told me that there is racism in the bureau, and certainly what we have seen of officer behavior not only indicates a lack of respect for people of color, but genuine problems with regard to restraint and general civility, even off duty.

Key elements of reform include significant training, revision of personnel policies, hiring, discipline and discharge of officers, as well as drug and alcohol testing, including steroid use, excessive alcohol consumption off duty, as well as psychological testing for new hires and officers involved in any questionable situations. In addition, the reform must be advised by a significant stake holder group that includes not just leadership, but persons who are “on the street” and deal with the police as direct constituents.

Martha Perez

Defer to the independent report that outlines recommendations as to how to best restore trust, in addition to the following:

(1) Grant the IPR more authority; (2) Allow for a subpoena process to occur, with regards to facilitating open communication among users of the current system; (3) Require Mayor to include department in portfolio, and; (4) Continue to dialogue with community partners, other agencies and the community-at-large, etc.

Dan Saltzman

My priorities are and will continue to be three-fold:

1. Continue my work around transparency and the public’s right to know:

In response to the two officer involved fatalities, I successfully petitioned District Attorney Michael Schrunk to record and make the related grand jury testimony public. This precedent-setting action is a victory for the public.

I immediately ordered public release of all detective reports surrounding the death of Aaron Campbell.

2. Push for fair and independent investigations:

I ordered the City of Portland request of the FBI to review the investigation conducted by Portland Police Detectives. Currently, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have initiated a preliminary inquiry into the shooting death of Aaron Campbell.

In conjunction with community leaders, I’ve requested that the United States Department of Justice Civil Right Division conduct an independent review of the Aaron Campbell shooting. I have obtained the assistance of U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley and Rep. Earl Blumenauer in this request.

3. Better and more comprehensive training for Police:

I applauded the contents of the Aaron Campbell case Grand Jury letter and am acting on their recommendations, including ordering an outside review of the Police Bureau’s tactical training in crisis situations.

In the past months, along with Commissioner Fritz, a former psychiatric RN, I have been meeting with experts, advocates and consumers in our mental health community to find ways to improve the intersection between public safety and people who struggle with mental illness.

Mary Volm

Restoring public trust in the police bureau must be earned by the police bureau itself. To accomplish this, the bureau must be transparent, accountable and willing to change by policing themselves from the inside.  Discipline of individual officers is often overturned (nine out of ten times) due to the City’s contract with the police that is upheld through arbitration.  The City must demand stronger accountability in current contract negotiations that allows for progressive discipline and termination of rogue officers.  Progressive discipline for specific behaviors exists in every other union contract the city signs.

The City has a responsibility to equip officers with the tools that facilitate clear on-site communications, as well as training that helps officers defuse a situation while still keeping the public and themselves safe.

At the same time, the public needs to be better educated and informed regarding the variety of situations police officers respond to in our city.  As commissioner, I would suggest a variety of public workshops with police management/first responders/SWAT/gang/traffic/detectives and other professionals (including mental health, justice and incarceration) that educates the public on the kinds of incidents police respond to and what individuals can do to keep their property, neighborhood and themselves safe.

A few years ago by request of then Mayor Katz, I worked with the Office of Neighborhood Involvement to develop a similar program called NeighborSafe, which dealt specifically with property crime, which was on the rise at that time.

The police must develop relationships directly with the community they serve to establish and maintain trust.

One response to “Answers, please…

  1. Tiago DeJerk

    Obviously, Michael Courtney and Mary Volm show no interest in improving “our” police. In their opinion, they are doing their job well, but WE need to be educated to understand better how good they are at it, and why they do what they do. Thanks, but I don’t need that.

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