Portland eyes police oversight board, commission as part of reform

Demands have ranged from reform to defunding or dismantling police departments

Portland, Oregon, authorities are looking how they might reform police in the City of Roses – and ideas include a civilian board of police commissioners or a community-controlled oversight board, according to a local report.

Lawmakers around the country have called for law enforcement reforms since George Floyd, a Black man, died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes on May 25.

Demands have ranged from reforming police departments with additional training and oversight to defunding or dismantling them entirely.

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In Portland, Democratic City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is supporting a ballot measure that would replace the city’s police oversight authority with an independent “Community Police Oversight Board,” OregonLive reported.

Currently, the City Auditor’s Office has an independent police review agency that operates separately from the Portland Police Bureau.

The plan Hardesty supports would reportedly give the new board authority to investigate complaints, impose discipline and recommend new policies.

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“We need to absolutely blow up the system we have and create one that’s responsive to the community,” the Oregonian quoted her as saying.

Paul Snell, who researches and teaches government and politics courses at the nearby Pacific University, has proposed a nine-member board of police commissioners that would absorb the auditor’s police review department and oversee an inspector general’s office, according to the report. It would also control the police budget, make high-level police hiring decisions and handle or have a say in discipline decisions.

Under such a system, he likened the police chief to a CEO and the commissioners to a board of directors.

Los Angeles, Honolulu and Oakland already have implemented similar commissions.

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Portland City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero has proposed granting her police review office additional power and transparency rather than getting rid of it, according to the report.

Her office is hosting a forum on police oversight and reform on July 13 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to have “a multi-faceted discussion” on the issue.

The police review agency said Wednesday it was processing a number of complaints in connection with recent protests in the city.

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