Outreach Workers, Police Praise Relationship-Building Approach to Policing
THURSDAY, DEC. 4, 2014 — Mayor Charlie Hales recently convened a work session on managing the homeless population on sidewalks and in parks to brief City Council on the Portland Police Bureau’s work toward relationship-building as policing.
Hales, commissioner in charge of the police bureau, in the summer joined a police walking beat on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, and was impressed with the evident relationships those police officers had built with the homeless population and business owners. Hales plans on growing the police-community connection, with a vision of a walking patrol in every neighborhood.
“As Sir Robert Peel said, ‘The police are the public and the public are the police,’” Hales said. “That’s our guiding principle.”
At the meeting, Hales asked police, outreach organizations, and others to share with the rest of Council their experiences with the pilot programs.
Israel Beyer, executive director of Street Roots:
“Street Roots wants to say the walking beat has been great success. It can be national model for police bureaus across the country, which are looking for formulas that may work to solve these problems. In 15 years been doing this work, this is the best program I’ve seen.”
Dennis Lundberg, associate director of Janus Youth Programs:
“I deeply applaud Central Precinct’s work. This is something that, at Janus, we’ve been striving for for at least a decade—this level of partnership. It’s not a matter of shifting back to community policing, it’s a matter of putting the right officers with right training out of the street. I deeply respect all the men on the police foot patrol.
“For me, and I’ve doing street outreach for over 13 years, it’s like having a whole ’nother team of street outreach workers out there. Their level of empathy, compassion, the way they’re engaging young people experiencing homelessness should be applauded. And I agree with Israel: This should be a national model.
Mark Jolin, executive director of JOIN:
“All of us who do this work, we know it’s a process of coming back over and over again, and building trust to the point people actually believe that your offer of services is an offer of ongoing support and relationships that go beyond recommendation to a service that’s already very full.
“We at JOIN have had a relationship with police for close to 20 years. This approach to the work has been present, but now it’s organized and it’s getting support at the highest levels of the Police Bureau.And it’s going to make a world of difference—it did this summer in the pilot area, not just in addressing these problems, but also in bringing to community attention to them.
“It didn’t solve the problem of camping, and of people generating complaints; we still have thousands of people living personal private lives out on the street.
“What changed was the way the officers tasked with responding to that were engaging people. It wasn’t just, ‘this is the impact you’re having on the neighborhood.’ It was recognizing, ‘asking you to move has an adverse impact on you,’ and addressing that.”
Sgt. Ric DeLand, Portland Police Bureau:
For the walking beat pilot program, Sgt. Deland wanted a team of officers who volunteered for the duty; 12 did. Since the success of the program, more officers have e-mailed him, interested in joining, he said.
“We welcomed an entire community of people back to Portland after they’ve been told, ‘we don’t want you here.’ We invited them back in and said, ‘We want good people here. We want good people invested in community.’ We talked to them about how they present themselves, and they responded in droves.”
DeLand said the officers this summer led by example. For instance, he said, “Uniformed officers picked up garbage this year.”
One day on Hawthorne, he saw that someone had knocked over the newspaper boxes in front of Bagdad Theater, leaving a mess of newspapers strewn across the sidewalk and in the street. He walked over and started picking them up. A person sitting at a table put down his beer to help. The traveler asking for change in front of the building got up to help. The three found a business with a recycling bin to toss the papers. When DeLand walked back along the stretch, people at the tables outside the Bagdad raised their beers.
“We brought a scalpel to this broad brush problem—that’s the change we made this year. We dealt with people on an individual basis, with the families they create for themselves, with tribes, as they call themselves.”
DeLand pointed to an example another speaker had, of a sign on the porch saying, “If you’re going to sleep here, please leave by dawn and clean up after yourself”; people have done just that. “That’s the experience we’ve had with people,” he said.
“That’s the vast majority of people. If you present the issues and how they can help, they’ll be responsive to that. Only a handful of people haven’t been,” he said.
He pointed to the Waterfront Park cleanup, when 100 travelers worked shoulder-to-shoulder to clean up garbage in the park.
“Invite them to be part of the solution rather than being part of the problem, and they’ll jump at the opportunity.”