Members of Portland’s Racial Equity Steering Committee presented the findings of their final report to the City Council on Monday night, the first step in a process that could lead to changes in the training, screening and oversight of the Portland Police Department.

The recommendations touched on community policing, oversight of the department, and changes in the way law enforcement responds to mental health crises. The report was delivered to the City Council in April.

“What you’ve produced is what I was hoping for,” Councilor Belinda Ray said. “You’ve exceeded my expectations.”

Committee members said there was unanimous agreement that the role of the police department is too broad. Officers are being asked to respond to mental health crises, substance use-related issues and incidents related to homelessness, as well as criminal activity. The committee said Portland could benefit from having an alternative response plan for reacting to non-violent incidents.

This crisis response team should exist separately from the police department and be housed within a community-based organization that already provides social services to marginalized communities, according to the committee.

“The committee sees this type of crisis response as being therapeutic rather than punitive, which is another reason we recommend that this program exists separate from the Portland Police Department,” the committee wrote in its report.


Other recommendations include: regular anti-bias training for police, extensive screening of officers for biases such as racism and homophobia, better tracking systems for police conduct and behavior that would hold officers accountable, and to abolish the Police Citizen Review Subcommittee, replacing it with a more equitable and accountable police oversight committee.

Committee members said they “feel strongly that some aspects of public safety can be achieved without police involvement … The committee believes that we have created a culture in which the police are treated as the sole resource for public safety and are called upon for every inquiry and incident that happens within communities of marginalized people.”

The committee recommends the council create a citywide mandate that would minimize the number of police patrols in communities predominantly inhabited by people of color and other marginalized groups. Those patrols would be replaced with public safety programs led by activists, organizers and community members who could not arrest anyone, but could contact police and emergency personnel in situations they are unable to manage.

To address racial equity, the committee recommends forming a Department of Racial Equity with a permanent director or commissioner serving in the city manager’s office. The director would be supported by at least two staff positions that would serve as a liaison to a new Racial Equity Board.

Committee co-Chair Lelia DeAndrade said the committee purposely omitted any mention of funding sources or costs for the initiatives, a task members felt was best left up to the City Council.

Mayor Kate Snyder said the council will hold another workshop on July 27th with city staff.


Portland formed the committee last September, four months after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by former police officer Derek Chauvin. The killing sparked nationwide protests, including in Portland.

“This committee was diverse in many ways: we are BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color), we have raised Black and Brown children; we have advanced degrees; we are business owners; we have been impacted by the criminal justice system; we work within policymaking systems; we are artists; we work within the criminal justice system; we are educators; we are activists in a myriad of ways,” committee members wrote in the report’s introductory remarks. “Every single one of us, BIPOC and white people alike, felt called to this committee work because we saw Black and Brown people being harmed and killed under the guise of public safety and we believed there could be a better path forward.”

Councilors attending the virtual workshop seemed to embrace the report and praised members for their work. DeAndrade and Facilitator Samaa Abdurraquib presented the report. Councilor Pious Ali is the other co-chair.

Councilors said the report and its recommended reforms cover a lot of ground and would take some time to implement.

“This is phenomenal work,” Councilor Andrew Zarro said. “But, this is a strategic plan that we are going to have to try to implement over a period of time.”

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