Bureau officials, working with the University of Illinois-Chicago, will start mailing letters to random Portlanders "who may have reported a crime, or been involved in a traffic stop or traffic collision." And those letters "will ask people to participate in a survey either by phone or online."
The surveys, the bureau has stressed, will be totally confidential and held not by police employees but by the university. The cops claim they won't even know whether someone even took a survey, let alone what that person might have said.
Both Mayor Charlie Hales and Chief Mike Reese, in statements, say the goal is to improve the bureau's customer service.
"This is a unique opportunity to receive feedback from those who have direct encounters with police officers," Reese's statement says. "Past surveys have talked to people who may or may not have had firsthand experience with an officer. This survey will be valuable in describing our customer service and how people feel about their experience with a Portland Police Officer."
But if the other cities who've done this are any example, Portland officials probably aren't quaking in their boots over what might turn up. In Chicago, where the scandals and violent crime make Portland's woes look like Mayberry's (look it up, kids), about eight in 10 respondents had kind things to say about officers. Including in the city's black and Latino communities. The Sun-Times reported in January:
“But the average person — what we call the ‘silent majority’ — is pleased with the performance of the police department,” said Dennis Rosenbaum, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which conducted the study.
“Too often, individual incidents and extreme cases get more attention in the media,” he said.
The Chicago results, however, did make a note of one blemish, though the paper didn't get into any detail: "Those involved in traffic stops didn’t feel as warm and fuzzy about the police as those involved in car crashes or those who reported a crime."
That's not surprising. People who call for help or get into crashes are not the people who feel profiled or picked on or marginalized. They're not the people who tend to be mistreated. It's the people singled out in traffic stops and pedestrian stops. It's the suspects or people detained or arrested after the report of a crime. Let's hear what they have to say.