PORTLAND — The Police Citizen Review Subcommittee is pushing back against the city manager’s response to its request to seat two residents on the Portland Police Department’s internal use of force committee.

Subcommittee member Maria Testa said City Manager Jon Jennings’ response fails to fully address its recommendations and is far from what the subcommittee intended in its effort to bring better transparency to how Portland officers use force on the job.

“I am not satisfied with the response,”  Testa said. “I don’t feel it is in the spirit of what, at least I thought, we were recommending.”

The subcommittee wants the City Council to name a citizen member from the subcommittee and from the city’s employment subcommittee to the police panel. Jennings last week, noting that an appointment to “an internal group working to improve operational matters” is his responsibility, said he will appoint one person to the use of force committee.

“The citizen member will still be able to provide the critical outside perspective that the PCRS identified as valuable, and this allows me to move forward with implementing your recommendation on a much shorter timeline,” he said.

The subcommittee has drafted a response to Jennings, insisting that the City Council name two citizen members to the use of force committee as was originally intended.

Residents at the subcommittee meeting Dec. 9 also said Jennings’ response was unacceptable.

“I have very deep concerns about the way this person would be selected and furthermore, the way these individuals would be indoctrinated into police policy and police procedure,” said resident Kate Sykes.

She urged the subcommittee to “do as much as you can” to ensure the appointees are representative of the public.

Jennings in a Dec. 8 letter to subcommittee Chairperson Emily West said his appointee would “be required to attend training, provided by the city and the department,  related to confidentiality requirements, legal principles in the use of force review, as well as this and other relevant police department policies, training and procedures. The civilian must also participate in at least one ‘ride‐along’ within the first six months of appointment, and will annually participate in at least one ride‐along and observe and participate in police department use of force and response to resistance training.”

Black Portland Organizers Working to End Racism (P.O.W.E.R.), a group advocating for better race relations in the city that grew out of this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, supports the Police Citizen Review Subcommittee’s recommendation.

“We are so, so, so tired of telling the city exactly what we need for accountability, for transparency, for truth, for speaking for ourselves and time and time again to be ignored,” said Christiana Marvray, a member of the group.

Todd Blanchette, a resident of South Portland who works in Portland, urged the subcommittee to reject Jennings’ offer, which he said is put forward as a compromise, but “will maintain that one-way street ruled by the police department where we have no say.”

Subcommittee members also disagree with Jennings’ intention to consult Police Chief Frank Clark about the selection of the citizen member, and in the draft response said they also would like to see the two appointees receive more well rounded training, perhaps in civil rights or civil liberties issues.

The Rev. Kenneth Lewis, a member of the subcommittee, said even though the city manager’s response did not fully address the panel’s recommendation it is a step in the right direction.

“I see this as progress,” Lewis said. “It feels progressive. We don’t have a voice there now.”

Testa, who is interested in being named to the use of force committee, said she hopes the community involvement in the work of the police citizen review committee continues as possible changes in the purview of the subcommittee get debated.

“We need a whole new mechanism for police oversight and civilian oversight of law enforcement in this community,” Testa said. “We don’t need this because we have a bad police department or not need this because we have a good police department. We need this because we have a police department. Any municipality that has a police department needs a parallel oversight from citizens of that police department.”

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