Over the past two weeks, most of you have read statements made by Mayor Charlie Hales and Chief Mike Reese regarding their efforts to promote community policing, diversity and equity training throughout the Portland Police Bureau. Chief Reese made reference to a new force policy that promotes de-escalation principles, crediting the policy for the decline in use of force and citizen complaints. I believe that both of their statements missed the mark.
Even though Chief Reese made a passing reference to the work police officers do, they both ignored the men and women who have built this organization—the rank and file officers, sergeants, detectives and criminalists of the PPB. In the almost quarter century that I have served the community, I have known hundreds of sworn members who have built trust with the community, promoting diversity and equity long before Charlie Hales was Mayor or Mike Reese was the Chief of Police. And although I applaud Mayor Hales and Chief Reese’s efforts to continue moving forward in a positive direction in meeting the needs of a continuously evolving community, it is the rank and file of the PPB that has carried the torch in earning the community’s trust and overcoming the obstacles of those whose agenda is to poison the relationship between the PPB and the community they serve with misinformation, baseless conspiracy theories and falsehoods.
Through all the politics and the continuous and rapidly changing needs of the community we serve, this organization was built on the backs of the rank and file, not on political buzzwords or self-serving agendas. It has always been the agenda of our members to listen, communicate, and act on the needs of the community, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.
Personally, I grew up in one of the roughest cities in America—Newark, New Jersey—during the 60’s and 70’s. As an eight-year-old boy, I remember the 1967 riots sparked by the beating of an African American cab driver by Newark police officers over a traffic violation. I remember the National Guard riding through the streets in armored vehicles as Newark burned to the ground. And I remember my grandmother making me and my younger brother sleep in her big claw foot bathtub to protect us from the random gunfire we heard throughout the night. Most of all, I remember the feeling of not feeling safe.
Year after year, Portland Police officers have continuously made this City one of the safest cities in the nation. And although there will be continued challenges that we face together with the communities we serve and we will undoubtedly have controversy to overcome, the PPB will continue to move forward toward community trust, diversity and equity only through the continued efforts of the rank and file.