A special committee asked to examine systemic racism in Portland’s public safety practices formally delivered its report to the City Council on Monday after six months of meetings and deliberations.

The 65-page report from the Racial Equity Steering Committee, appointed amid last summer’s protests demanding racial justice by Mayor Kate Snyder and the City Council, contains a wide range of recommendations around policing, mental health, housing, employment and street names.

City Councilor Pious Ali, who co-chaired the committee, said the report was born out months of difficult discussions from a diverse group of members, nearly all of whom were people of color.

“This was a difficult exercise and process for all of us,” Ali said. “We all know tackling the issue of racism in this country – especially the time we’re in – is not an easy task.”

Lelia DeAndrade, a former professor with experience in working on racial equity issues who co-chaired the committee with Ali, noted the breadth of the report and the ambitious recommendations being put forward. She urged councilors to take a broad view of the topics and focus on moving forward, without getting bogged down in past actions or the details of each proposal.

“There’s something in it for everyone to love and everyone to hate. It’s not going to be easy to swallow for everyone,” DeAndrade said. “I know from my experience, that it’s the next step you’re doing that’s going to be the hardest.”


DeAndrade likened systemic racism to weeds growing in a garden that must be routinely pulled.

“It requires constant, sustained, intentional effort,” she said.

After accepting the report, councilors decided to hold a future workshop to hear a full presentation of the report and findings by members of the committee. From there, councilors will refer individual recommendations to committees for further review.

A date for that workshop has not been set.

Kate Knox, an attorney who lobbies on the city’s behalf in Augusta and served on the committee, wished the council “strength and courage” in working its way through the report. She said the committee discussed whether to pare down its recommendations, but decided against it.

“We recommended some really big things and we talked about that a lot,” Knox said. “We really felt like the moment called for big.”


The committee was established in response to public demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. The killing sparked nationwide protests, including in Portland, that continued as other Black people were killed by police.

Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty by a jury of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, after he knelt on the back of Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, killing him.

The council passed a resolution last summer calling for a Racial Equity Steering Committee to look at systemic racism in the city’s public safety functions and the ever-expanding demands placed on police, including their response to mental health crises and drug overdoses. The committee was appointed in September and met mostly on a weekly basis up until last week. Each member received a stipend of $600.

The committee delivered an interim report to the council in February. It called for the creation of a Department of Racial Equity within city government and a permanent Racial Equity Board of volunteers outside of city government to continue the Racial Equity Steering Committee’s work on an ongoing basis, by evaluating city policies for “covert and/or overt racism.” The final report also calls for a third entity, a Racial Equity Task Force, which would be an ad hoc committee focused on equity in public health.

It also called on the city to dissolve the existing Police Citizens Review Subcommittee, which has limited power to review alleged police misconduct, and replace it with different citizen oversight board “that welcomes all community participants, regardless of their experiences with law enforcement, the criminal justice system, or their employment.” Anyone who has been arrested or has had a family member arrested by, or who has filed a complaint against Portland police is not allowed to serve under the current rules.

The group also called for a change in how police respond to mental health crises. They recommended a model similar to the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets, or CAHOOTS, program used in Eugene, Oregon. The program was launched in 1989 by the White Bird Clinic, a nonprofit serving low-income and homeless individuals. The program sends two-person teams – a medic and a trained crisis worker – on mental health crisis calls to conduct conflict resolution, welfare checks, substance use assistance and address suicide threats, among other things. Neither team member is armed, or a law enforcement officer.


The final report expands on recommendations for training, oversight and accountability of police. It also raises concerns about the city’s community policing program, which has generally been viewed as a success in Portland for relationship-building.

“We believe that the current community policing system leads to excessive and unequal police presence in Portland’s marginalized communities which leads to mistrust and trauma for residents of those neighborhoods,” the report states. “Trust will only be built when communities are treated equitably and marginalized communities are not faced with the constant physical presence of the police.”

The group suggests a policy minimizing patrols in communities inhabited primarily by Black, indigenous and people of color. They recommend converting community policing programs into community public safety programs led by activists, community organizers and trusted community members. That group would not be able to make arrests, but could call police or other entities, such as the proposed mental health team, to respond.

“Relationships between law enforcement and racially marginalized groups – Black people in particular – are strained and caustic,” the report states. “Visible police presence does not translate into safety or feelings of safety for Black people and other People of Color. Regular police presence in these neighborhoods makes BIPOC youth and adults feel threatened, as if they are being viewed as suspicious. Regular police presence puts BIPOC youth and adults on edge.”

The group recommends stepping up screening of new police officers, by using “regular and targeted, research-based screening tools” to – at a minimum – review an individual, their personal connections, social media accounts and other online presences” for an personal prejudice, racism, white supremacy, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia and other types of discriminatory beliefs.

And the city should also develop a better tracking system for police conduct and behavior, on top of having an external review process, especially for officers who receive multiple complaints, the group said.


The committee also issued a series of recommendations for a review and appeals process for criminal trespass orders issued at homeless shelters. The recommendations came after a presentation by Homeless Voices for Justice, an advocacy program overseen by the social service nonprofit Preble Street, and Pine Tree Legal, which provides free to low-cost legal services for low-income people.

The report recommends creating a four-person review committee with representation from HVJ, Pine Tree Legal, the city’s neighborhood prosecutor and a licensed social worker. All trespass orders would be reviewed after 14 days and 30 days to ensure they were justified and should be sustained. An appeal process should be available to people within 30 days, the report states.

Other recommendations touched on housing and employment.

The full members of the Racial Equity Steering Committee were: Councilor Ali (co-chair); D’Andrade (co-chair); Chef Louis Pickens; Suheir Alaskari; Ali Abdul; Merita McKenzie; Deborah Ibonwa, Esq; Lado Ladoka; Peter O’Donnell; Kate Knox, Esq; and Cumberland County District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck, Esq.

Niky Walter Amaris and Jerome Bennett were originally members of the committee, but they were unable to continue with the committee work, according to the report.

Mayor Kate Snyder said the city will announce a date for the workshop, once one has been scheduled.

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