The head of Portland's police union accused the mayor of calling him and his rank-and-file officers racists, at a hearing on racial profiling Thursday, October 19.
Portland Police Association (PPA) President Robert King didn't participate in the mayor's commissioned series of racial profiling sessions between May and July earlier this year. At the hearing, where a report from those sessions was presented to the city council, King explained why the PPA was a no-show: "Although [the mayor] did not technically say we're racist, it's impossible for those watching on television and reading in the newspapers not to conclude that officers are acting in a way that's racist or racially motivated. I don't see how we respond to that without feeling we're labeled racist."
Mayor Tom Potter responded by referring King to his opening remarks. "Nowhere did I say you are racist. I said there is something not right and that the numbers don't add up."
The exchange took place after the report's author, Jo Ann Bowman of Oregon Action, had presented the report alongside Alejandro Queral, executive director of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center. "I share Commissioner [Randy] Leonard's concern that, if we delay the work of the racial-profiling commission, 'racial profiling might get lost in city hall's digestive system,'" Queral said.
After the hearing, Bowman said she was "disappointed" in King's testimony. "Clearly he's trying to act as an obstructionist".
Police Chief Rosie Sizer also responded to King's comments. "One of the things that's a shame is that in the listening sessions, those perspectives were shared. In many ways, this council hearing acted as a community listening session of its own."
At the hearing, the mayor surprised many observers by promising to return to council within 60 days, with a timeline for setting up a racial-profiling commission. City hall rumblings earlier last week suggested he might have delayed matters by waiting until the new Human Rights Commission is convened next year ["Pottering Around," News, Oct 19].
Also, Sizer conditionally agreed to the monitoring of individual officers' traffic-stop data—another report recommendation—as long as a privacy statute can be drafted in the Oregon State Legislature to protect the identity of those officers from release to the media under public records requests. She had been publicly resistant to such a measure before the hearing ["Bad Apples," News, Oct 5].