On May 7, the Portland Press Herald ran an article about recent increases in arrests of homeless people. Tuesday prior Bayside residents gave Police Chief Clark personal observations of similar increases in neighborhood activity – public drinking, dealing, trespassing, burglary, etc. – that seem to have led to these arrests. Chief Clark indicated crime around temporary shelters outside Bayside hasn’t increased. Moving shelter clients doesn’t move Bayside’s problems, contrary to claims by opponents of shelter relocation.

This line in the article stood out to me: “Advocates say … officers could focus more on de-escalation and other interventions for nonviolent offenders.”

What advocates hear about, I witness, alert to actions of the police officers and suspects alike. Officers do focus on de-escalation, consistently, sometimes to a fault in the eyes of homeowners frustrated by hundreds of non-violent offenses. Personally I haven’t seen police interactions or outcomes that could be called inappropriate by a fair and informed observer.

Example: last Sunday two men, asked to move along from private property, resisted doing so. They yelled and argued with shelter staff, a neighbor, and responding officers for at least ten minutes. They claimed the property was  public and God is the only landlord, and that they know the Constitution. Officers were calm and patient. Though told the property owner has trespass papers on file, they took time to confirm that information. The incident ended without summons or arrest. De-escalated.

Portland’s police force does exemplary work in both mundane and remarkable circumstances. That bears repeating and sharing. Now more than ever.

Sarah Michniewicz

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