Since Mayor Hales took office in January 2013, he has worked with Portland Police to build community trust in the bureau, to encourage relationships among officers and the people they serve, and to make Portland a safer city.
Recognizing that long-term, historical issues are a hurdle to public trust, the mayor and new Police Chief Larry O’Dea have invested in community relationships. Mayor Hales has approached a federal police reform settlement as not just a mandate, but also an opportunity, both implementing and going beyond the settlement. For example, he allocated $75,000 for a mental health specialist for the city and announced he’d propose capital funding for an emergency psychiatric center. Police use-of-force continues to drop, with ongoing training in de-escalation. Walking beats and partnerships with youth, immigrant and other groups have proven successful for officer job satisfaction and police-community interactions. The city invested in resources for gang outreach during a spike in violence. Community members formed a group called “Enough Is Enough,” with support from the mayor’s office and police bureau, to take a stand against gang violence. Chief O’Dea reorganized the bureau to emphasize officers’ community involvement and encourage diversity and equity.
Ultimately, the mayor and Chief O’Dea are working to instill in the bureau the value of community relationships and collaboration. Mayor Hales’ priorities aim to continue the momentum of progress, with walking beats in more neighborhoods; stronger partnerships with more groups; and improved resources for people in mental health crisis.
Emergency psychiatric facility: After convening the parties, Mayor Hales is working with the Police Bureau, U.S. Department of Justice, local hospitals, coordinated care organizations, and state and county health departments to establish an emergency psychiatric center for people in mental health crisis — part of an effort to address the region’s inadequate mental health resources. The mayor has maintained that police officers should not be the first point of contact for people in mental health crisis, and he is working to change the broken system.
Walking beats: The pilot walking beat program was a tremendous success: Over about six months, police made more than 2,000 contacts with people and issued only 21 citations. They made 227 arrests, mostly for outstanding warrants. They got out of their cars and interacted with everyone — store owners, pedestrians, people who are homeless, people with mental illness. Mayor Hales is investing in walking beats in more neighborhoods, gradually changing the model for policing in Portland to be more based in community relationships.
Don’t Shoot Portland: Mayor Hales agreed to meet with members of Don’t Shoot Portland, who in winter 2014 held a series of demonstrations against police use of force. He held the first meeting in January 2015, and will continue to listen to their concerns and work with them as partners in police reform.
Implementation of Police Reform Agreement: The U.S. Department of Justice in 2011 began investigating Portland Police practices, particularly related to those experiencing mental health crisis. In 2012, the agency found that the Police Bureau needed to reform its policies and training. When Mayor Hales took office in 2013, he embraced the resulting agreement for police reform, and has been working to implement the terms of the settlement. Including:
- DOJ analysts: The mayor budgeted $351,000 for six analysts dedicated to the city’s police reform settlement, including one racial profiling analyst dedicated evaluation of and reporting on stops data. This data in part measure the rates at which officers successfully identify who is carrying contraband. Continued improvement of this measure will improve police legitimacy and operations.
- DOJ implementation: To date, Mayor Hales has spent $4 million implementing the police reform settlement agreement. This includes new training, new staff and more public outreach.
- Mobile crisis units: Portland Police increased its capacity to respond to mental health crises, adding a mobile crisis unit to each precinct — three units, up from one in 2013.
- ECIT officers: The Police Bureau increased its number of Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team officers, specially trained to deal with mental health crises, from 50 in 2013 to 78 in 2014. This is part of Mayor Hales’ commitment to improving the way law enforcement interacts with people experiencing mental illness.
- COCL team: Mayor Hales contracted a team of national experts in police-community relationships and mental health to oversee and support implementation of police reform as the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison, required in the police reform settlement agreement. The team, including Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum, who has a national reputation on issues of community engagement and law enforcement, and Dr. Amy Watson, nationally recognized for her work in police interactions with people experiencing mental illness, is joined by Paul De Muniz, former chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, known for his work making the judicial system accessible and fair.
- Create a COAB: Mayor Hales continues to prioritize implementation of the police reform settlement agreement, asking the U.S. Department of Justice to extend the application deadline for the Community
- Oversight Advisory Board that will support police reform implementation. The mayor began recruitment for the board on the settlement’s timeline, but members of the community asked for more time. He listened, helping the community in January 2015 create the best board possible to oversee police reforms.
- Public participation: The Bureau has established a public review process of all policies in an effort to ensure transparency and accountability. Mayor Hales is encouraging people to come to the table, to work with the bureau to represent their interests.