The fallout from the recent federal report blasting the Portland Police Bureau for excessive force against people with mental illness continues to pile up. During this morning's meeting of the Portland City Council, Mayor Sam Adams agreed to hold off on giving the bureau's longtime psychologist a contract extension until Adams can huddle with the feds and determine how to better screen would-be cops.
"It's fortuitous we have an opportunity to look at this issue and consult with the feds on it," Adams said.
Adams made his decision after he was pressed today by members of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, who complained—convincingly—that the city fell short on promises the group would be deeply included in the search for a new psychologist. The city's current psychologist, David Corey, is one of just two applicants in the running to keep doing the job long term, and was up for a short-term extension today that the mayor pulled back.
The AMA has singled out Corey for a long time, raising questions about how well the bureau filters applicants who might be prone to violence and racial bias. And members were dismayed he was still in the running. Despite being told this winter they would be able to help drum up applicants and shape the city's so-called job offer, AMA members testified they weren't updated until this summer, after they asked where things stood, and after applications had already come in.
Corey "has not done an effective job in Portland in weeding out candidates with a propensity for violence," said AMA steering committee member Jo Ann Hardesty. "We are very disappointed.... If we had been involved there would have been many more than two applicants."
Added Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch: "It's about screening [applicants] for their diversity and equity vision... and how they'll relate to the people of color on the street."
The AMA's complaints hit home for Randy Leonard, who called the AMA's testimony compelling and wanted Adams to clarify that "your intent," in pulling back on a contract today, "is to make sure the AMA is part of this process, and we'll start it again and include their input."
Adams replied he'd "need to talk to the chief" first, referring to Police Chief Mike Reese, but agreed this was a fine chance to make changes.
Beyond that, pulling back on today's extension, interestingly, may have saved the city a legal headache. The ordinance that Adams swore contained a only a 36-day extension had some curious, long-term wording that will now be "cleaned up."