Unsurprisingly, the concept of community policing had waned during the intervening 10 years. (A period of time, it should be noted, that corresponds to Mayor Katz's tenure in office.) But now with a new mayor--one who championed his campaign on the concept of community policing--and recent calls for a kinder, gentler police force, community policing seems to be in vogue again. But what exactly this means remains elusive.
To some extent, that matter may be answered when Foxworth returns this week to testify at city council. Allegedly he will provide details about how the police force plans to reinvigorate the idea of protecting and patrolling neighborhoods.
In August, city council gave Foxworth 60 days to come up with a plan and a definition for community policing. (Due in October, the report is characteristically late.)
While it is encouraging that Foxworth is calling for a return to community policing, it should be remembered that the matter came about not because of inspiration from either the mayor or police chief, but because city commissioner and then-mayoral hopeful Jim Francesconi stirred up interest in the topic.
In July, Francesconi called for a report from the police bureau detailing what they were doing to bring about more accountability. Immediately, Katz threw a hissy fit, saying that Francesconi was guilty of political grandstanding and had overstepped his bounds. She then stomped out his call for a report. But, three weeks later, she introduced her own community policing ordinances--ones that looked remarkably similar to Francesconi's.
During city council testimony on those ordinances, Francesconi aggressively cross-examined Foxworth. "What are we going to see," the commissioner directly asked the chief, who had spent most of his testimony providing platitudes. "Are there going to be performance measures?" continued Francesconi. "Are there going to be particularities on what progress you're making?" he asked, punctuating his questions with: "Specifically!"
It remains to be seen whether Foxworth will measure up to Francesconi's request or whether the police will continue along their course of generalities and vague protocols. At press time, the chief's point-by-point resolution was not available.
In his first year as chief, Foxworth has so far pushed forward several mild reforms within the force. But he has shied away from any direct confrontations with the Portland Police Association--the rank-and-file's über-protective labor union.
For example, in light of two traffic stops that quickly turned deadly in recent years, community members demanded that officers file a report any time an officer draws a weapon. But PPA representatives countered, saying that such reports may cause officers to pause, potentially putting them in harm's way.
Earlier this year, Foxworth settled that debate by pushing forward a middling policy change. Under the new rules, officers are required to document each time he or she points a weapon at a person (not just drawing it). Although the policy change is an improvement, it still avoids standard operating protocol popular around the state. For the past seven years, the Oregon State Police have required officers to notify a supervisor and subsequently file a report explaining why a gun was pointed. Likewise, police in the surrounding communities of Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Tigard are all required to submit reports detailing circumstances surrounding a drawn weapon.
Portland is currently enjoying one of its longest stretches in a decade without a police shooting of an unarmed citizen. (The last shooting occurred in late March when officers killed James Jahar Perez after pulling him over for failing to signal a turn.)
In addition to the chief's calls for more diversity within the force and better training, the Mercury hopes that either Foxworth or individual members of city council will push forward several other policy changes that were discussed and encouraged during the recent mayoral and council campaigns.
At the Mercury's "You Promised!" townhall, city council candidate Nick Fish recommended that the police union tweak the force's 4-10 shift system--in which officers work four 10-hour shifts per week--to a schedule that more easily corresponds to community meeting times.
Also at the Mercury townhall, Francesconi recommended that community involvement should become part of an officers' job description and performance review.
The Mercury would like to see that recommendation taken even further: Officers should be required to spend at least four hours each month (as part of their work time) with a community organization or service. Working with a community service such as Boys & Girls Clubs will help officers better understand and integrate with the neighbors they patrol. It will also make officers much more approachable.
City council-elect Sam Adams has put forward perhaps the most articulate definition of community policing. Through meetings and forums, he suggested that each neighborhood generate a "top 10" list for policing priorities.
Foxworth was scheduled to appear in front of city council this past Wednesday. Foxworth will also speak about his plan for community policing at the City Club on Friday, December 3, at noon. (Governor Hotel, 614 SW 11th, $5)