Podcast: Portland Police Officer and City Council Candidate Eli Arnold

Eli Arnold in the BikePortland Shed, April 1st, 2024. (Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

It took over a month for me to agree to interview Portland City Council candidate Eli Arnold. When most candidates reach out and ask for an interview, I reply much sooner and am eager to connect, either for a recorded conversation or an appearance at Bike Happy Hour.

But Arnold was different — because he’s a Portland Police officer.

10 years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about interviewing him or helping him connect to our community. Personally, I’ve always had very strong mixed feelings about police in our city, but I’ve also maintained working relationships with them. Here are just a few examples: In 2005, BikePortland’s first year, I sat down with a Traffic Division commander; I’ve done two ride-alongs, one in a patrol car, the other on a bike; I’ve advocated for more bike-mounted officers; published a guest article by a former officer (hi Robert!); and in 2015, I worked closely with the Portland Police Bureau to launch the (now defunct) Bike Theft Task Force.

But in recent years, my opinion of policing — and the PPB in particular — has soured. I participated in several of the Black Lives Matter protests as a Portlander and as a journalist between June 2020 and April 2021 and I currently have no contact with the bureau or any of its officers.

That why I’ve watched Eli Arnold’s candidacy for council District 4 (Sellwood, Eastmoreland, and everything west of the Willamette River) with interest. When he requested an interview last month, I thought about it for a long time before saying, “yes.”

I understand the risks of platforming a police officer in our current political climate. But as I weighed my decision, nothing emerged from my own thoughts or from what I’d seen or heard or researched about Arnold, that I considered to be disqualifying. Please note: Those two previous sentences do not encapsulate all my thoughts about Arnold or this interview and I’m happy to talk about them further in person, in the comments below, or wherever else. In the end, my gut told me I should talk to him and share our conversation with you.

We covered a lot of ground in the interview. I wanted to make it relevant and worthwhile in terms of the big issues, while also touching on Arnold’s cycling perspective and giving you a sense of who he is beyond his uniform.

“It’s the equation for photosynthesis, escape velocity and the Drake equation…and giant Sequoia tree paired up with a Saturn five rocket.”
He rolled up to the Shed in north Portland from Sellwood on his Trek Alpha.

Here’s a brief list of what we talked about:

  • Arnold’s experience on the bike squad.
  • Why Arnold started a community garden in his Savannah, GA neighborhood in 2014.
  • Why I’m skeptical he can be trusted to be a city leader with only Army and police experience.
  • How the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO in 2014 inspired Arnold to become a cop.
  • What he thinks about Former City Councilor Jo Ann Hardesty’s violence prevention tactics.
  • Policing in Portland and Arnold’s ideas for improving it.
  • What the big tattoo on his arm is all about (it’s related to his love of science fiction).
  • Why he thinks the we need more police — despite the problems on our streets being one of mental health, addiction, and other issues police are not suited to address.
  • How he’d approach traffic safety and his ideas to save lives.
  • and much more.

Listen in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts. You can hear an audio sample below or on Instagram. I’ve also pasted several exchanges below (edited for clarity):


[00:05:21] Jonathan Maus: When did you get to Portland and how did you decide to become a police officer here?

Eli Arnold:

“I got to Portland in 2015. I was just looking for something community oriented to do… Actually the first job I applied for was to be the head of the community garden program in Portland. I was not hired. Then I applied to be a background investigator the police bureau and somebody at that was like, ‘Why in the world are you not applying to be a police officer?’ And I had gone on a ride-along a few years prior, and prior to that no interest in the field. But it was really interesting actually. And so this guy talked me into it and I went ahead and applied.”

[00:07:16] Jonathan Maus: I think for a lot of people in America, [the response in Ferguson, MO to the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer] was when they started getting skeptical and negative about policing, maybe for the first time in their life, and it kicked off a lot of the turmoil of the next decade. I know you were in the Army, so you’re sort of in a law enforcement profession to some degree. Do you think that’s why that you leaned into policing in that moment instead of maybe coming away from it like a lot of people did?

Eli Arnold:

“I think the conclusion I reached was just that, this is important. Do it [policing] well or bad, there’s huge consequences. And so, you know, I think what attracted me as a young person to the military was, we’re going to deal with life and death stuff. We’re going to deal with big things. And I think my particular nature, uh, sort of suits me to certain things. I’m very non-reactive. So, you know, like flying a [night vision goggles] mission in Afghanistan doesn’t do much to me. An so I thought, you know, here’s the thing that maybe I’m suited to. So I guess it did have some appeal as like, I think I could do a good job at this.”

[00:14:52] Jonathan Maus: You mentioned the capacity issue with the police, but it seems to me that the issues on the street are issues that would be better solved by people that aren’t police officers. So whatever it is, social workers, something like Portland Street Response and other alternatives, right? So how do you balance those two proposals that you’re talking about — where you want to go back to more police yet you’re also saying you’re identifying all the problems police should be really responding to begin with?

Eli Arnold:

“I think we need both. I think just on the purely police side, we just don’t have the capacity we need to do the work that people deserve when they’re the victim of a crime.”

Jonathan Maus: Saying you want both is a nice, easy thing to say, but politics is about making choices. And I think some people listening to this may hear that answer and think, well, one of the reasons we can’t do some of the alternative care is because there’s so much focus and attention and money going into the policing and the staffing of police… Why should we increase the amount of officers in this city given the track record, given the distrust, given the lack of substantive reforms, even in the last few years?

Eli Arnold:

“Yeah. well, I think policing’s kind of a black box to a lot of people. It’s something most people don’t have very much experience with… I think the way that you improve a lot of this is by improving service. And you can’t improve service if you don’t have the staff… I think doing the job right requires the people, requires the time, requires the follow-up… So I really think we need those increases in the short-run. What we’re looking for are ways to reduce strain on that system and sort of deal with the surrounding issues.”

[00:20:04] Jonathan Maus: And for that, people I think reasonably should want something in return. And I’m just wondering, what are those meaningful reforms been to make it so that the Portland Police Bureau deserves that extra capacity, which is a lot of extra money from the community?

Eli Arnold:

“I will just tell you my experience coming in. I think a lot has changed in policing over the last 20 years. I learned about policing after becoming one, and the history really is that 40 years ago, there were no rules… And so we’ve been gradually moving from a complete free-for-all, total authority within the police system, to something much more regulated. And I think the West Coast is actually kind of leading the way with that, especially with the Ninth Circuit being so interested in sort of limitations and competing concerns… And I think the Portland Police Bureau, ten years ago, doesn’t look like the one that exists today.”

[00:25:39] Jonathan Maus: What can Portland do to prevent people from dying and getting hurt on the streets [in traffic crashes]?

Eli Arnold:

“I don’t wanna sound like a broken record, but I think it was 55% of the pedestrian deaths last year were from the homeless population. Again, I think the current free-for-all camping deal is killing people and I have I have seen myself somebody panhandling on a street and, we’ve got an intoxicated driver and you know, they die. There’s a there’s a spot off [Hwy] 99 just south of Ross Island Bridge. There’s a camp like tunneled under the highway and people constantly wandering across the highway all hours of the day and that’s gonna result in deaths. I’ve also seen somebody coming off 26th into downtown, you know, drive up onto the tents on the sidewalk before. If we can just put people in shelters or put them in camps in safer areas, we can really reduce that. So that’s really like, first in my mind.”

[00:38:57] Jonathan Maus: Did you work the protests when they were happening downtown?… When you think back to the protests, is that something that you feel some pride in Portland, or was that a moment of shame and something that was the wrong thing to do? How do you remember that, that moment?

Eli Arnold:

“You know, I think it’s a very messy moment. I don’t think it’s singular enough to just feel one way about it. I think it’s appropriate to feel every kind of way about it. And so to me, I’m almost resistant, to drawing a conclusion or an easy narrative out of it. It feels like a family fight, you know, like after it doesn’t feel good. You know, we’re all still here together. We need to move forward.”

[00:40:02] Jonathan Maus: One of your quotes that stood out to me is when you said, “Being a police officer is like being a community dad at-large.” That’s a nice image of policing, but if you look at things like use-of-force and all these other things, it doesn’t necessarily match the reality. Someone that’s been trained and has your [military and police] background is the opposite of a community dad in my opinion. How do you alleviate that concern of mine?

Eli Arnold:

“Well, first, I don’t think it’s the opposite of community dad. What is a parent? A parent is somebody who provides safety, but also deals with all those other little things, when somebody’s hurt, when somebody’s lost or they need some talking to, or some assistance. I mean, so much of what police end up doing is just not criminal, right? It’s looking after people because you just happen to be who’s out there. I’ve had elderly people with dementia who didn’t know where they lived and you, you’ve just got to solve that problem for for someone. And that’s why I describe it like that.

Obviously, sometimes you are dealing with violence or, or with other things. You know, I think policing a core function of the city. It’s a very important function and it’s important function to get right. And yeah, I understand your concern.

I think the thing about it though, is everything benefits from some understanding of the nuance that comes with first-hand experience. And we’re going to have a 12 person council, and the question is, will we have one person who is familiar with it in a way that isn’t vague or, or who can predict how a policy might impact some of that first responder world.

And so I think it’s an asset. And you know, this is a job I’ve done for seven years. It’s not my whole identity. It’s just something I went and did. And I’ve learned a lot — from mental illness to addiction issues, to how policies are playing out in the city. And so my intention is to sort of just take that and bring that to the table when we’re looking at those issues.”

[00:43:13] Jonathan Maus: But wouldn’t it make more sense for you to be advocating for more mental health responders, social workers, and those kind of things — and not necessarily more police?

Eli Arnold:

“I mean, I think we’ve got to get the whole ecosystem right. One thing I’m doing is I’m going to be going on a ride-along with the Portland Street Response next week, because I think Portland Street Response has been one of these groups that suffered from our tendency to fight over these things ideologically and I haven’t heard a whole lot of people talking about, like, practically, how can we refine this tool and make it the most useful thing it can be?”

[00:44:36] Jonathan Maus: Is there anything about policing in Portland that you would be willing to say is not going well right now?

Eli Arnold:

“I think there’s some room for improvement in some things, absolutely. One thing I’d like to see is like better customer service. I think there’s some ways that can be approached. You know, so much of it is actually about communication… I spent a lot of time thinking about it… Simple things like people will call 911 and say, ‘I see something happening. It’s of concern, but I don’t need to be called back.’ I’m always calling that person back. I want you to know you called, we heard you, I went, here’s what’s going on. I just think being better about those kinds of things is important for the community.”

[00:46:01] Jonathan Maus: I’m hearing candidates say, ‘Let’s get Portland back to normal. Let’s get Portland, back to some other thing,’ some heyday or whatever. What does that mean to you? What does Portland need to get back to in your mind?

Eli Arnold:

“When I got back here in 2015 it felt pleasant and optimistic in a way that I think it doesn’t to a lot of people right now. I’m actually hopeful we are kind of starting an upswing. I think we just need to sustain, you know, make some improvements, but I think we’re going to see improvements here in the next couple of years.

But really, I don’t think it’s about looking backwards, it’s about maybe missing some fundamentals that we had well-covered in the past. I think continuing to be a progressive, forward-looking place requires that we knock out those basics that free us up to experiment and enjoy blazing a path forward.”

[00:48:27] Jonathan Maus: Can I read you a quote that you shared on Instagram? You said you enjoy painting because, “To really see a thing changes the observed and the observer too. It’s been true for me. Responding to 911 calls, seeing the city at its best and its worst has changed me. I think our question now is, what are we going to do to find meaning and purpose when things feel stuck?”

So, what are we going to do, Eli?

Eli Arnold:

“I think we double down, right? We commit to the place and we say. ‘Yeah, how do we make this a great place for everybody?’ A place where you can push a stroller and feel good about it. Where the park down the street from your house is like a wonderful place to be on a sunny day.

There’s a weight in the air I feel like in Portland and I’d love to see it clear. And I think just by doubling-down and focusing on those basics, we can, we can do that relatively quickly.”


If you want to meet Arnold in person, along with Multnomah County Commission candidate Jessie Burke and City Council D2 candidate Mariah Hudson — and learn some Portland civics at the same time — check out this event on Sunday, April 14th.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Jared White
1 month ago

I know how trepidatious you felt leading up to this episode, but I thought it was great and a very enjoyable listen. I can’t say that it moved the needle much in my opinion of policing in Portland generally, but I really appreciate hearing Eli’s perspective and feel like if we had a lot more “Eli’s” in the city, maybe we’d see some real change for the better. Thanks for another great episode of the podcast!

Timur Ender
Timur Ender
1 month ago

Im only halfway thru this podcast but just wanted to say thanks for keeping us informed about ppl running for positions of power. I appreciate learning more about ppl, hearing their perspectives, backgrounds, and life experiences. I also really appreciate you asking the tough questions so listeners are able to make up their own opinions.

idlebytes
idlebytes
1 month ago

Nothing but non-answers on any of the police accountability questions. Not that I’m surprised but I don’t want anyone in charge that refuses to acknowledge they have huge accountability problems. Bringing up the Justice Department as an indication of improvement was pretty weak since they were still out of compliance 8 years later and probably are to this day. The non-answer on traffic enforcement being held hostage was particularly grating.

Sidd
Sidd
1 month ago

Great work here Jonathan. Diplomatic and fair approach while still pressing him for real answers beyond canned responses

MaC
MaC
1 month ago

I’m always amazed when police try to show they’ve improved by pointing to court rulings that REQUIRED them to change. (In this case, talking about the 9th circuit.) If the only reason your department changed is that a court ordered you to change, that doesn’t demonstrate your evolution. A quality culture would hear criticism, reflect on it, and evolve on it’s own. When your department requires a DOJ settlement to make any (potential) improvements, it underscores how police culture refuses to change on its own.

And the idea that Eli thinks this is a quality argument demonstrates an extremely poor understanding of what actually listening to your community looks like.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  MaC

I’ve suggested to people on this site that they “become the change” and join the PPB to change the culture from within. It’s usually met with derision. This guy who originally wanted to work on community gardens in Portland after successfully starting a program in Georgia decided he wanted to help out in a way he was able to. Literally no one on this site can claim anything similar. I see the nitpicking and petty complaints all focused on his police work (where he rides a bike for a living and literally spends all day listening to Portlanders issues and complaints) and so far no one really reflecting on the things he’s accomplished. Even JM (I made it half way through the interview and thought it was great) can’t think of him as anything other than the face of the PPB when Eli is calmly talking about issues.
He seems like a solid candidate that has done things other than complain. It’s too bad that many here who complain about the direction Portland is going will discount him solely because of his current employer.
During Afghanistan he also would have been responsible for and used to taking care of paperwork, people’s lives, how their morale was, how he could make sure they were able to do their jobs properly, how to respond to a tragedy, a positive life event……in short how to be a city councilor.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

my concerns with him remain

I hope those concerns are with him personally and not with the actions of his employer or colleagues.

Not everything my employer does is something I am proud of (though the things I work on have always been, at worst, neutral, and usually positive from an environmental and ethical standpoint).

MaC
MaC
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

I have concerns with some decisions my employer makes as well, and I’m happy to discuss them.

When given the opportunity to share thoughts that contrasted with those of his employer, Eli decided not to. (He didn’t even answer a fairly simple question of “did you work the 2020 protests?”) My concerns are that he seemingly is content with how his employer operates, given his lack of reflection in the interview.

Brandon
Brandon
1 month ago

This is absolutely correct. Now, if you had been having an off the record interview and he gave you the same cookie cutter response about the 2020 protests then that would be a huge red flag. He was on a podcast, in an interview about running for office, he is very limited in what he can say without negative repercussions for him at the PPB. They clearly know how to hold a grudge over there.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago

Hi Jonathan,
Just want to say again how much I enjoyed the half of the interview I was able to catch. Also impressed that you went close to the edge of your comfort zone with the interview (based on your comments), although from your tone and questions in the interview itself it didn’t sound like you were concerned with his profession. It’s really important to get some candidates out there who people might not want to listen to or dehumanize because of the work they’ve done.

 but I also recognized that he was in the interview as a candidate, not as a PPB spokesperson, so I was trying to balance those two things and respect that aspect of his role.

I’m afraid I got over sensitive reading your concerns based on his employer and over emphasized in my own mind the way you phrased your response to idylebytes. I’m glad you asked me about it as I had to read over your response and see it wasn’t as pointed as I first thought. The rest of my response is still good, but I regret my statement about you unable to see him as anything other than the face of the PPB.

MaC
MaC
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

My comment wasn’t about how to reform PPB. It was that pointing to changes made by court orders to demonstrate how an organization has proactively evolved misses the concept of “listening to the community” entirely. It’s interesting you chose to completely sidestep my actual critique.

idlebytes
idlebytes
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I’ve suggested to people on this site that they “become the change” and join the PPB to change the culture from within.

For the same reason Eli wouldn’t answer any of Jonathan’s questions about accountability. As Jonathan said he’s walking a fine line. You can’t exist in corrupt police departments if you’re constantly trying to hold your colleagues and superiors to account. Hell during the George Floyd protests police departments across the country wouldn’t denounce what was done.

Do you really think some progressive do gooder can join the PPB and change it from within? I think you’d be lucky to get through the hiring process and you’d be pretty quickly drummed out for reporting all the misconduct. At best you can do what Eli probably does not report all the terrible shit you witness and do your job ethically. That’s a moral grey area as far as changing the culture from within goes.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  idlebytes

You can’t exist in corrupt police departments if you’re constantly trying to hold your colleagues and superiors to account. 

This is probably true of almost all organizations, police or non-police.

Do you really think some progressive do gooder can join the PPB and change it from within? 

I think so. The military has made dramatic positive changes from within.

If I’m wrong, what hope is there? If change from within is not possible, how will people with no understanding of the internal dynamics of the organization have any hope of forcing it from the outside?

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

You’re right about the military making dramatic changes. I’ve seen it happen first hand from working with no women and anyone even suspected of being homosexual brutally hazed in combat arms in the 90’s to full integration with females and males openly talking about their same sex spouses and dating lives with the same sex.
What caused those changes? Brave people who went into the system and lived their honest lives as good people and changed it from within.
In Special Forces (which includes support elements who still do freaky things) the positions are recently open to females. Without brave women to go and do those jobs nothing would change.
Those women face much more than anyone going into the PPB and yet they still do so.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2023/08/24/women-in-army-special-ops-face-blatant-sexism-and-must-wear-equipment-that-doesnt-fit-according-to-study/?sh=57aeb01e4fa2

Its surreal to read where people here think nothing can change a culture and a little sad that they lack any intestinal fortitude or imagination.

Matt
Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The changes I’m military culture you describe did NOT come from within, and did not happen without major pushback from within the ranks. It was imposed by civilians who were disturbed by the existing culture.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt

The civilians didn’t make people go into those MOS’s. Yes, civilian leadership opened the door, but individuals had to walk through and actually make the change. Those people who walked through the door are the ones who became the change.
The same could happen to PPB, the door is open for recruitment, but progressives won’t walk through and start a new culture.

alex
alex
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I honestly don’t think it is just culture, it is a systemic issue and those are much harder to change from the inside. Also, the chain of command is really derived from a popular election (which is an externality of the police). Keep electing people who aren’t willing to make any substantial changes and allowing police unions to basically control things via courts and making the public pay for their bad behavior and we won’t see change.

How about we incentivize change by changing who pays for the crimes that police commit? If the police get sued for bad behavior and are found guilty (which they have many times), their severance and benefits get docked for example? If they can’t follow the rule of law (literally going against federal court orders regarding use of force for over a decade), why are the citizens held accountable both monetarily and by the repercussions of their bad decisions? I think even if culture does change there are large glaring holes that will continue to exist that enforce bad behavior that must be changed at a systemic level and those changes must and do come from outside of the police themselves. Would love to hear where Eli stands on police unions and his thoughts on their impact on police reform and behavior.

Also of note, the police a deeply political group that can create the appearance of certain crimes being more of a problem than they should because they want more power over how they direct funds or in retaliation for political decisions outside of the police force (see traffic enforcement discussed in this blog). Let’s not pretend it is a simple “we need to change culture from the inside”, when it is really a “we need to change culture from the outside in order to hold the police accountable for their actions in a meaningful way” because if you trust an organization to hold themselves accountable, I have a bridge to sell you. This can be seen happening in the military and only through elected leadership did this change –

Executive Order Changes How Military Handles Sexual Assaults

The executive order makes changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial. The changes, among other things, move responsibility for the handling of such crimes away from military commanders to independent military prosecutors, who are outside the military chain of command.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  alex

why are the citizens held accountable both monetarily and by the repercussions of their bad decisions?

If you held officers financially liable for lawsuits resulting from their actions, they would get insurance to cover themselves, and the city would almost certainly pay the bill (or have no police force). That would be more expensive than self-insurance, which is what we have today.

I don’t see any practical mechanism that liability can be shifted and the city can be indemnified for the actions of its employees.

alex
alex
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Right, but we could tie lawsuits to their benefits in a meaningful way. I was just giving examples how the system basically reinforces bad behavior and the organization pays very little to no consequences. I understand reasoning behind not holding them individually accountable – and I never argued for individual accountability – but we can hold the org accountable by limiting benefits/pensions as a whole based on performance. The cost of lawsuits gets subtracted from pension benefits or budget. It seems like the police keep performing worse and worse, yet they keep saying it is because they need more and more money, budget, people. While on the other hand, I see them politically manipulating their responses to situations which actually make things worse (traffic enforcement for example) so that those arguments might seem to make more sense and not destroying trust with the community. Why should we keep rewarding this behavior with more money, people, resources? I don’t think Eli even begins to touch on these questions and all he does is dodge them. If he can’t have the vision and aptitude to publicly answer these questions while literally doing this job, I am not sure he is fit for this role.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  alex

The cost of lawsuits gets subtracted from pension benefits or budget.

Every time there’s a successful lawsuit against the police, all cops lose some of their PERS benefits? Or the police budget gets cut?

Neither of those sounds workable to me. Collective punishment (reducing everyone’s contractually defined retirement benefits because of the actions of one person) is morally abhorrent, and I’m not sure how you’d get cops to accept that in contract negotiations. I sure wouldn’t.

Reducing the budget is more feasible, but police budgets are set based on desired outcomes. We could reduce them based on lawsuit awards, but if we can get the desired outcomes with smaller budgets, why wait for a lawsuit to reduce them?

I don’t think either of those proposals would work.

I see them politically manipulating their responses to situations which actually make things worse (traffic enforcement for example)

You could also see this as a rational response to a lack of personnel — when you don’t have enough staff, something has to give. I don’t know if something else should have been cut instead, but I rarely hear critics make specific suggestions.

For more context, here’s what the Oregonian wrote about the change at the time:

https://www.oregonlive.com/crime/2020/12/portland-police-to-move-traffic-officers-canine-cops-to-patrol-next-year-to-fill-shifts-cut-overtime-and-improve-response-times.html

alex
alex
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

For more context, here’s what the Oregonian wrote about the change at the time:

Right – but we also have a cop talking about them cutting traffic enforcement in order to drum up support for cops. They have to paint the picture in a politically feasible way – I don’t think they are dumb enough to now know this.

I’m not sure how you’d get cops to accept that in contract negotiations. I sure wouldn’t.

Cool – let’s get rid of the union then and have police reform.

Also, it seems like you are missing the point here – you can keep poking holes in ideas I throw out, they are definitely there. But my point is that we have a system where we keep rewarding bad actors in a corrupt system. Without changing the system, there isn’t going to be much actual change, unless we demand it from the outside and our elected officials actually act.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  alex

Cool – let’s get rid of the union then and have police reform.

Unions serve an important role protecting the legitimate rights of employees from unreasonable demands of management. Maybe cops don’t need this protection, but I suspect eliminating the union would be difficult on a practical and political level.

my point is that we have a system where we keep rewarding bad actors in a corrupt system.

I mostly* agree with this, and I don’t know how to resolve it. To a certain extent bad actors can (and do) thrive in any system, but in policing the costs are much higher than elsewhere.

I know you disagree, but I think that having more** “good people” in the police department would help. I also think that there were easy answers, they’d already have been tried.

I am open to (but not convinced of) the possibility that the nature of policing, bringing people into daily contact with the worst people and most tragic stories in our society, has a psychological impact that makes it impossible to achieve a perfect system, and the best we can do is try to manage the symptoms.

I am absolutely convinced that regular people treating cops as the enemy is not going to make things better.

*I’ve lived in places with truly corrupt cops, so we might disagree on how bad our system really is within the universe of what can be realistically achieved.

**My personal experience has led me to believe that there are a lot of well meaning people in the system already.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The difference is those people didn’t actually fundamentally conflict with the activity of the military. They still joined to do the same thing the military does. If people join PPB to do what PPB does that is… exactly the problem actually. The fact that we have, e.g. women and black people in PPB is exactly illustrating the point. Oh yay, they allow those people in to do exactly the same thing they always do.

In other words, nobody joined the military and changed it from within. The door was opened and they simply joined. Nothing changed about what it does, and nothing changes about what PPB does when people join it.

alex
alex
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

If I’m wrong, what hope is there? 

I mean, change is often forced form the outside. I mean, if you look at the largest cultural shifts, which I believe a lot of people believe need to happen at that order of magnitude, have only been possible from external pressure. Did people need to know the all of the internal dynamics of politics for the American Revolution to happen? How about the police reforms in Georgia? I mean, I could go on and on really about how external forces completely changed the structures of political institutions without knowing all the internal dynamics.

Matt
Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

The military did not make dramatic changes on its own initiative. It was civilians that demanded changes in military culture.

SD
SD
1 month ago

The Portland police are deeply corrupt and refractory to change. The culture is rotten from the top down. If Eli can’t discuss how to reform policing in Portland openly, then he can’t be trusted to be on council.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

Honest question and avoiding a discussion on whether the PPD is deeply corrupt, can the same be said of those involved in the non-profits that continually use up tax money on themselves? Can anyone associated with nonprofits be trusted to manage tax moneys when rampant corruption is apparent in that industry?

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I think these are two different kinds of corruption.
If someone was running for city council that was working for a non-profit with a demonstrated track record of corruption, most people would expect them to address that in adequate detail. Yet, in this case, Eli is being given a pass by many who are imagining ways that he could possibly be a double agent, secretly working for police reform without being able to talk about it.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

I’m not sure anyone would press a non profit candidate on how the resources are spent, if there is such an interview I would like to see it. Are there any normal people running for office that don’t already have a taint??

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I agree. But if a non-profit had repeatedly been found to be operating illegally by the department of justice or other agency, they would certainly be questioned about it.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Your evidence for PCEF grantees escaping accountability is…a case where a PCF grantee was actually held accountable? An interesting choice.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven

Yes. The grant was awarded, the media did some poking around, and the ensuing embarrassment caused the grant to be rescinded. This is a classic pattern when agencies don’t vet organizations properly.

Maybe there’s other cases that we don’t know about because the media did not get involved.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

In other words, just like the police.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

can the same be said of those involved in the non-profits that continually use up tax money on themselves?

Yes, absolutely. It’s another place where external pressure / forces are needed to make them change.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

For sure, if only he owned a micro-niche bookstore with back taxes owed, then we could figure out a way for him to run a multimillion dollar bureau.

donel courtney
donel courtney
1 month ago

I’m still not even sure what “Portland” (am I Portland? Or is “Portland” whatever people vibe it to be?) specifically thinks the PPD does/did wrong that needs to change or be held accountable for?

Was it shooting the guy in Lents park after he was pointing a (fake) gun in the direction of people on the jogging path?

Was it their response to people throwing rocks and fireworks at them during the protests and trying to light buildings on fire? (I was down there constantly observing–self employed so had all the time in the world, what I saw kind of made me feel bad for the police).

What is it exactly? I literally don’t get it.

I lived in LA for 10 years and the cops there were dicks. Portland cops were and certainly are now, milqtoast in comparison.

So perhaps people need to be a little less general because it starts to sound like a trope or a kneejerk political stance rather than a legitimate complaint.

At least it does to the part of “Portland” that never gave the police much thought prior to downtown being destroyed in 2020. This “Portland” is the 55 percent that voted for Rene Gonzales, not the 6% east of the 205 who voted for Hardesty. The Bipoc people that desperately beg for Police to stop the rampant “traffic violence” and drive by shootings.

The Gardener
The Gardener
1 month ago
Reply to  donel courtney

This. Absolutely.

I’ve worked around police for decades, all over the country. People who loosely throw around words like “corrupt” and “violent” when describing Portland police need a larger frame of reference.

We’re blessed with a very, very good complement of officers who, no matter how hard they try or what they achieve, will be the subject of criticism and condemnation by the portion of our populace who simply think we can exist as a society without police. Officers who aren’t community oriented and whose views are antithetical to the sort of policing we want and need? Sure, a few exist, just as substandard performers exist in every profession. But most of them have been driven away by the relentless hostility that’s been part of the ether of Portland for four years.

Our biggest policing problem right now is that the hostility has made it almost impossible to recruit and retain the officers we want. An applicant used to be required to have a bachelor’s degree to hire on to PPB. Now, a GED will do, as we cannot attract enough candidates. And as a result, our police staffing is low enough that if we immediately doubled the number of cops we had, we would not be at the average number of police for a city our size.

As Eli indicated, the Bureau today is vastly changed from the Bureau 10 years ago. What we need now is for the hostility to be dialed down and for there to be a willingness to engage with the police on what we can do together to bring our city back.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago
Reply to  The Gardener

I’d be happy if the police department would institute new training programs on how to deal with particular sticky situations and heck, just dealing with the diversity of people we have living in this city.
In all the years I’ve lived in Portland I’ve yet heard anything about trying to train the officers to better interact with the public and tone down some of the testosterone.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

In all the years I’ve lived in Portland I’ve yet heard anything about trying to train the officers to better interact with the public and tone down some of the testosterone.

Now you have.

“A national organization that focuses on de-escalation is training police officers at Portland State University this week.”

https://www.koin.com/news/portland-police-officers-undergo-training-in-de-escalation/

“All Portland Police Bureau officers receive basic Mental Health Response Training/Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), as well as annual mental health refresher training.”

https://www.portland.gov/police/divisions/behavioral-health-unit

More de-escalation training:

https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2018/05/outside_instructors_provide_ne.html

MarkM
MarkM
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Thank you! I always appreciate your respectful challenges to the unsubstantiated “all,” “everyone,” and “every time” comments in this forum.

I’m pleased Jonathan finally reached out to Eli. What Eli said made sense to me. I’ve decided not to comment further on this story, however, because my oldest son is a military veteran and my wife and I were married by an Alaska State Trooper.

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  The Gardener

The PPB continues to unnecessarily kill and injure people and cover up their mistakes. As an institution they express no remorse or admit fault. They have spent the last several years effectively on strike, promoting a political agenda while on duty. The police union has fought to keep corrupt officers on the job. Just saying it’s worse in other horrible places in the US doesn’t justify the lack of leadership and accountability in the PPB. They fight measures of accountability at every step.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

The police union has fought to keep corrupt officers on the job.

In the same way that lawyers defend the obviously guilty, unions defend people who really should be fired. It’s what unions do.

Unions don’t serve the public, they serve their membership.

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Yeah, and that’s bad. The police union is particularly egregious when it comes to this, and the stakes are higher with bad cops. There are other sectors, where superiors lose their jobs for trying to keep bad people on the job. The police should be held to a high standard. If they were, they may actually have some pride and self respect, instead of constantly whining about how nobody likes them.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  SD

The PPB continues to unnecessarily kill and injure people and cover up their mistakes.

PPB killed 4 in 2022, Portland residents killed 101, seems a bit lopsided if PPB enjoyed killing folk any chance they get.

https://www.portland.gov/police/open-data/ois-summaries
https://projects.oregonlive.com/data-points/homicides/map

They have spent the last several years effectively on strike,

And pretty blatantly too. Really unfortunate and I think the strongest complaint against them.

The police union has fought to keep corrupt officers on the job

In my experience that’s been all unions. It wasn’t fun working with a sexual harasser who a federal union (in Portland of course) fought successfully for a year to keep employed.

I’ve only had positive experiences with the police and worked with many police officers (PPB and various county deputies) while in the Guard. Those experiences color my perspective as all our experiences do.

Steven
Steven
1 month ago
Reply to  donel courtney

What did PPD do wrong? Only violate their settlement with the DOJ and state law by continuing to use indiscriminate force against members of the public, including news reporters. No biggie.

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
1 month ago

It was very brave of Eli to reach out to you given your anti-police bias. I’m glad you did finally disclose your biases Jonathan. It’s unfortunate that you also claim to be a “journalist” and running a news site. I think you should drop that charade and be honest with readers that Bike Portland is an advocacy organization, not a news site. Regardless, I’m glad Mr Arnold is willing to reach out and engage will ALL members of our community.

jakeco969
jakeco969
1 month ago
Reply to  Angus Peters

If you don’t think that BP is honest news you haven’t read much of it at all.

Kate Corrays
Kate Corrays
1 month ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Bike Portland is likely the 3rd most biased “news outlet” (a stretch) in Portland after Street Roots and the Portland Mercury.

Constant unabashed homerism, calls to escalate conflict between cyclists and drivers, daily vilification of PBOT, PPB and any city council person that does not tremble with fear when activists try to bully the democratic process.

I highly suggest other sources and perspectives. You will not get the truth here.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate Corrays

Can you recommend better sources for 1) Portland bicycle news, 2) Portland transportation news, and 3) Portland land use news?

I can’t, but would love to hear your suggestions. I’d be especially interested in sources that also publish comments containing as much information and thoughtfulness on those subjects as is found here, and actively weed out unproductive comments.

Matt
Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate Corrays

Plus BP has also supported some of the most inept and destructive “politicians” this poor city has ever seen.

Matt
Matt
1 month ago

Very evasive answers, and a complete lack of thoughtful insight. Sounds like he just wants a new gig.

A. Peters
A. Peters
1 month ago

It’s incredibly funny to me for Eli to push hard on the image of Cop-as-Daddy considering the paternalism police organizations regularly show.

It’s at least a little bit contradictory to speak of listening to the community simultaneous to voicing “Portland needs a real dad to take charge, so call me papa.”

Sheilagh A Griffin
Sheilagh A Griffin
1 month ago

“Community Dad” gagging here… so horribly paternalistic! Like he knows what is best for everyone in the community. He is NOT my Dad nor my neighbors Dad. Totally inappropriate but not unsurprising comment from a cop in our culture. Makes me feel sick to think about. I am so tired of cops and men in general thinking they know best for everyone!

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago

Ahhh, isn’t that what a politician is supposed to do? Say what they want to do if elected for the community that they’ll serve and yes, it might, for some, sound paternalistic.
I’m no fan of elected officials, but that seems to be their modus operandi.

A. Peters
A. Peters
1 month ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Not OP but I mean…. No? Maybe in some limited view of politics.

In a representative democracy, a politician should be a representative of their constituency, accountable to their constituency. There’s nothing inherently paternalistic about that, and I’d argue the opposite approach, one deferring expertise to constituency, better fulfills that role.

Politicians ultimately have to make decisions for their constituency, but that’s not part-and-parcel with holding one’s decision-making above theirs.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

I live in Eli’s zone, and – thanks to this interview – probably won’t vote for him.

surly ogre
surly ogre
1 month ago

Policing is still a complete free for all.
There is no duty or obligation for Police to Protect.
The supreme court is one reason for this.
https://radiolab.org/podcast/no-special-duty

We have a mission to prioritize walking, bicycling and transit.
The city has goals for Vision Zero, Modal Shift and Climate Action.

I hope Eli can focus less on police, crime, and homelessness, and more on what Portlanders want relative to safe transportation, fewer cars, cleaner air/water and a healthier future.

We need to make walking, bicycling and transit more attractive than driving. There are too many cars in Portland, too many crashes, too much speeding. This is the insanity that police should also be working with fervor to stop too.

Angus Peters
Angus Peters
1 month ago
Reply to  surly ogre

“The city has goals for Vision Zero, Modal Shift and Climate Action.”

But since the city and County can’t even give us basic services such as police response, clean bike lanes, safe MUP’s, adequate ambulance services, prompt 911 answer times, safe neighborhoods for our small businesses how do you think they will ever be able to attain these more illustrious goals?

Matt
Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  surly ogre

Uhh homelessness is a pretty big one here in Portland.