Support BikePortland

Bike and walk advocates join calls for major police reform

Posted by on June 8th, 2020 at 2:44 pm

“Our business has historically been in trying to build the best bike network possible, but our work is meaningless if public space is not safe for everyone.”
— Bike Loud PDX co-chairs

A storm of daily protests inspired by the murder of George Floyd have ratcheted up pressure for major changes at the Portland Police Bureau. And some local transportation reform advocates refuse to sit on the sidelines.

From fare enforcement on TriMet to enforcing traffic laws (or not), police officers have a vast impact on how people get around — especially people of color. Put simply: Transportation reform cannot happen without police reform and the dismantling of racist law enforcement.

That’s why Bike Loud PDX and Oregon Walks support a call for major systemic changes to the police budget being led by the Portland African American Leadership Forum (PAALF) and Unite Oregon.

“As advocates for safer streets we would be remiss to ignore the violence caused not just by drivers, but at the hands of police,” wrote Bike Loud co-chairs Catie Gould and RJ Sheperd in a letter to Mayor Ted Wheeler and city commissioners today. “For all Portland residents to enjoy the fruits of a better transportation system, Black Portlanders need to be able to freely exist in and enjoy public spaces without fear of being harassed, criminalized, or physically harmed by law enforcement.”

“Our business has historically been in trying to build the best bike network possible, but our work is meaningless if public space is not safe for everyone,” they continued.

Bike Loud wants City Council to vote to re-allocate General Fund dollars away from the PPB and toward other priorities. The PPB budget sucks up about 33% of Portland’s total General Fund allocation ($236 million out of $719 million) while a host of vital community needs are perennially underfunded.

Oregon Walks, whose leader Jess Thompson made strong statements last week about the need to tear down white supremacy, said her group is also in full support of calls to “defund police” which has become a rallying cry for a host of sweeping changes that would re-imagine how community safety and service is delivered. “Oregon Walks remains committed to leaning in to our racial equity learning and practice — including how to see and disrupt anti-blackness,” the organization said in an email yesterday.

Advertisement


Screen shot of PAALF’s website.

This Wednesday June 10th Portland City Council is slated to hear testimony on the 2020-2021 budget. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is expected to propose an amendment that would eliminate funding for three PPB special units that have a legacy of unfair policing against people of color: School Resource Officers, the Gun Violence Reduction Task Force, and Transit Police. Hardesty has Commissioner Chloe Eudaly firmly in her corner and with just four members of council they only need one more vote to wipe these units and their $14.4 million from the books.

Some change is already happening: Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announced last week he’d pull nine school resource officers out of schools. This morning Mayor Wheeler announced that Jamie Resch would voluntarily step down so that Chuck Lovell, an African-American with deep roots in north and northeast Portland, could become the new chief.

PAALF’s long list of demands would go way beyond shuffling leadership and cutting a few small units. They want, “democratic community control over safety and justice systems rooted in restoration and healing.” Among their asks are a $50 million reduction in the PPB budget, a reduction in the size of the force, an end to “militarized” protest response, and more.

If you want to make your voice heard about these issues, please email or call the mayor and council members: Mayor Ted Wheeler, mayorwheeler@portlandoregon.gov, 503-823-4120; Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Amanda@portlandoregon.gov, 503 823-3008; Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, chloe@portlandoregon.gov, 503-823-4682; and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, joann@portlandoregon.gov, 503-823-4151.

You can register for the June 10th council session via Zoom here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

31
Leave a Reply

avatar
9 Comment threads
22 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
16 Comment authors
PNWPhotoWalksOpus the PoetTodd BoulangerGary BToby Keith Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

These are key statements: “police officers have a vast impact on how people get around” and “our work is meaningless if public space is not safe for everyone.”

During the early days of the nationwide protests and the negative police actions, I spoke to my children about how past Portland City Hall administrations (until Mayor Potter rode with us in Critical Mass) utilized the publicly funded institution of militant police power to deny cyclists from peaceful assembly in public ROWs to protest lack of safe streets and facilities for vulnerable roadways users and enforcement of speeding etc.

Since the Administration of Sam Adams when Portland became “Biketown” its hard to realize that a few years earlier PPB officers frequently used their motorcycles and other weapons to force moving cyclists riding in Critical Mass rides and other protests out of the few bike lanes there were and onto the sidewalks or other non-transportation spaces (lawns etc.).

Brad
Guest
Brad

This current movement is about systemic racism in society and in law enforcement. Let’s keep the focus on helping black and brown folks who have a lot more to worry about in their daily existence then biking. If the biggest injustice in our life is our cycling experience then we have it pretty good.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

True that. My point was the political use of police power focused on a subgroup. As we know cyclists and pedestrians are one the few population subgroups that society can injure (often driving)/ law enforcement tacitly allows with almost as much impunity as does happen to black and brown populations. Speaking for myself only – This is likely as close as ‘white person’ can get to a direct awareness of the situation that others deal with daily. PS. Brad, remember this is a cycling focused blog.

Aaron
Guest

Thanks, Oregon Walks / BikeLoudPDX!

mran1984
Guest

How about clearing the bikeways and sidewalks of garbage, urine, and feces? Anyone safe on the I-205 path? Is a protester going to stop the “guy” rolling coal?

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

I have repeatedly reported the horrid conditions on the I-205 MUP near the Parkrose transit station and nothing has been done.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Glad to hear you support re-allocating police funding to social services. I agree it would help improve the conditions of our bikeways and sidewalks, in addition to the more important outcome of improving life for those living in those places.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

If the public perceives that the police are being defunded, will drivers drive even faster and crazier?

And what will be the County’s response?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Sadly, in many cities the PD with the help of Council leadership, has already “defunded” traffic enforcement out of the general fund.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

David, at least twice now you’ve implied the popular slogan “defund the police” to mean that all police services would be removed. That’s not what what I’m hearing from any sources discussing it seriously. What’s your angle on framing your comments that way?

(Camden NJ former police chief talks about that city’s 2013 reforms in this article: https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/06/08/872416644/former-chief-of-reformed-camden-n-j-force-police-need-consent-of-the-people)

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Aside from frequent protester chants, there is the 7th paragraph: “Oregon Walks, whose leader Jess Thompson made strong statements last week about the need to tear down white supremacy, said her group is also in full support of calls to defund police. “Oregon Walks remains committed to leaning in to our racial equity learning and practice — including how to see and disrupt anti-blackness,” the organization said in an email yesterday.”

You are correct, people who are “discussing it seriously” would probably try to reform or restructure the police. But that’s not what the protesters are saying – they want it gone altogether, and are willing to deal with the consequences later. Why they naively believe that racism and police brutality will go away once their local police department has been disbanded is well beyond me.

The difficulty is that if you want to control an agency, the local level gives you the greatest leverage of control. Once it becomes a county-wide policing agency (an extension of the Sheriff), you loose a great deal of control of the budget. If you cannot control the agency now through your own city budget, how is it going to get better when the county is controlling the budget (and policies, procedures, training, etc.)?

Compton CA and Camden NJ are very poor cities where crime was completely out of control, even worse than Detroit. Portland & Minneapolis situations aren’t even remotely that bad. So I find it astounding that the otherwise intelligent citizens of each city are willing to surrender their fiscal controls, and thus policies, of their policing to each respective county like Compton and Camden did.

If you really want to control your police (or any other agency you deem dysfunctional [PBOT?]), the best method IMO is to treat it like a corporate monopoly and break the department into separate smaller units under separate directors and commissioners – remove the internal unity of the organization – then eliminate programs within each unit piecemeal.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

Do you read that to mean that Jess Thompson or Oregon Walks is advocating that Portland remove all municipal police forces?

Update 10:18 -0700 – Whoa…you’ve added a whole bunch of new stuff to above post in the past 10 minutes! Pardon me while I digest it.

Update 10:27 – I see, you’re taking the protest slogan literally for polemics. I trust that readers who are interested in your point of view (I am) are reading other sources, too, where a variety of activists and city officials are proposing realistic solutions which involve moving some funds away from police budgets (i.e. defunding) into services which better fit the needs of their communities.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

IMO, it really boils down to local politics. In my community, Greensboro NC, our very conservative city council is satisfied with doing basic symbolic gestures and window-dressing such as changing police policies and whatnot in response to our protests and rioting, but we know from past experience such changes will yield nothing on the ground. And our county commission is even worse, they just approved the purchase of an expensive armored tracked vehicle for “hostage situations” that is clearly designed for riot control. The really embarrassing thing is that our black commissioners and city councilors are often even more conservative and pro-police than the white ones.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

Aye. And just to remind myself that this moment in history, while it might be transformative, follows so many other moments that we let slip away without changing our ways for the better that Kenneth Clark’s words, testifying in front of the Kerner Commission (National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders) in 1968 grabbed my attention:

“I read that report … of the 1919 riot in Chicago, and it is as if I were reading the report of the investigating committee on the Harlem riot of ’35, the report of the investigating committee on the Harlem riot of ’43, the report of the McCone Commission on the Watts riot [1965] …”

Noted in:
Adam Harris, The Atlantic, June 4, 2020
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, June 7, 2020

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

And my first thoughts during President Trump’s (AG Barr) forcing out the peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park were of the 1932 newsreel images of US Army tanks (MacArthur & Patton), tear gas, and horse soldiers firing on retired veterans and their families in DC…as AG Mitchell ordered.

https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/bonus-army-march-washington.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonus_Army
https://www.npca.org/articles/1915-the-forgotten-march
#bonusarmy

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Do motorist in Portland worry about getting pulled over? I don’t speed, but it certainly isn’t because of Police. They seem like a non-factor when it comes to folks driving decisions.

It’s not like they do traffic enforcement or parking enforcement outside of the central city.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Purely out of curiosity, but do you happen to be white?

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Sure, like a huge portion of Portland, I’m white. That doesn’t really have anything to do with your question though.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

But of course this has everything to do with the protests. If you are driving and have made an error or have some infraction, the police need only put your license plate number into their computer and immediately identify your race and/or ethnicity, all while driving and without pulling you over. There’s a repeatably-proven statistically high significance that if you happen to be driving while white, you are much more unlikely to be pulled over than if you happen to be black or Latinx. This has nothing to do with justice or being more likely to break the law, but to do with bias by those charged with enforcing the law. And the chances you’ll be arrested or even killed by the police if you are driving while black or Latinx are far greater than if you are white, for the same offenses. So of course for you, as a white person, speeding would seem like a non-factor on enforcement. But for many (most?) blacks and Latinx, there is a constant fear that they’ll be the next to die by the police.

This bias on enforcement extends to the courts: blacks and Latinx are much more likely to be prosecuted, more likely to have poor or no attorney representation on their cases, and much more likely to be sent to jail and unable to pay any fines and court fees, than whites who are charged with the same crimes.

What the protesters want is for all laws to be enforced, consistently without fail, for all races, genders, income groups, etc., or else have such laws removed for lack of ability to enforce them. They want fairness.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

No, I got that you were looking for a reason to get on a soapbox, you asking about my race just had nothing to do with my comment or your question.

Dave, I’m not sure how you know what the protesters want. You don’t even live in Portland, correct?

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

You are correct. I lived in Portland 1997-2015, the last 8 years as a community leader and transportation advocate in East Portland. Since Dec 2015 I’ve been a professional trouble-maker in Greensboro NC, a poor city of 300,000 that is pretty evenly split between blacks and whites.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

I see hardly anyone get pulled over for speeding, regardless of race. Well, Street Racers have been, so that’s good.

Jim Calhoon
Guest
Jim Calhoon

Last week on HW30 between the St John’s Bridge and St Heles Street, I observed 4 motorcycle cops giving tickets and another one with it’s radar on looking for someone to pull over. So it does happen just not very often.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Thoughts and Prayers, obviously.

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

I have no qualms about this, PPB already does little to nothing to enforce traffic laws as far as cyclist and pedestrian safety is concerned, and I was involved in Critical Mass and the protests against the 2003 Iraq war, and later observed Occupy from a safe distance, and the PPB were nothing but bastards to all the cyclists and protesters both, and their brutal tactics have only escalated, based on what I see on the news.

dwk
Guest
dwk

We can have an Andy Griffin police force.
It is not crazy.
Neighborhood police that are like postman we would give xmas treats to.
They are Gestopo because we allowed them too.
Why they look like Storm troopers when all people want is petty crime reduced is what happens when no one cares except the people being abused and police departments gets tons of federal Homeland security leftovers and the local “liberal” mayors were just happy for the funds….
We can have a nice police force, hire normal people we would like.
We don’t need armed police showing up to about 90% of crimes which are usually domestic disputes or mental health issues.
This is not that hard.
Black Lives Matter.
Mental health crisis people matter.
Abused wives and children matter.
Flak jackets and auto weapons not required.

Jess
Guest

Here is the link to the Oregon Walks newsletter you reference in your blog post: https://mailchi.mp/oregonwalks/black-lives-matter

PNWPhotoWalks
Subscriber

Thanks, Jess.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Did we all miss something?…the PPB just got a new Police Chief yesterday…that is at least what my KBOO podcast alerted me to late last night…

https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2020/06/jami-resch-resigned-as-portland-police-chief-after-letter-from-black-leaders-condemned-her-all-white-command-staff.html

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

We don’t keep police chiefs very long here in Little Beirut.

Opus the Poet
Guest

Defund the Police means at its core to remove everyone and start from scratch, and stop using LEO for stuff that needs social workers and mental health professionals. One person pointed out that if we diverted 90% the money spent on LEO to Universal Basic Income we wouldn’t need 90% of the LEO we have now, because most of what passes for “crime” is just people trying to get by. Also pointed out was that white collar crime costs the community much more than what poor people get busted for, and that most of out LEO dollars are spent making poor people’s lives worse, rather than going after the people who cause most of the harm to the community. In fact there isn’t even a mechanism for going after things like financial crimes and environmental crimes on the local level even though those crimes are usually done right out in the open.