Last Tuesday evening, more than 500 people packed Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in North Portland for the first opportunity to directly question police since the May 5 shooting of Kendra James. But after five hours of testimony and fierce questioning, most attendees left feeling even more frustrated and angry.
In May, Mayor Katz called for the forum (as she put it) to bring transparency to the incident and bring about acceptance by developing mutual trust. But after originally scheduling a public hearing on the shooting, she then postponed the meeting until nearly two months after the funeral.
Although the meeting was well attended, most said they had little hope that the mayor or the police force would shed any light on the incident or provide any real contrition.
The police provided a video reenactment that showed four different scenarios. Officer Scott McCollister, who shot James, claimed he had climbed into the car with James and feared for his life when she began to drive away. In the video, an actor played the part of the officer. "Mostly," the actor/cop in question repeats several times on film, "I was afraid of falling."
Later, during an extensive, drawn-out PowerPoint presentation by one detective, Pastor Roy Tate, a community leader, grew frustrated. "How many more slides do you have?" he called out. "I think the community has heard enough."
"We're getting 'dance-around' answers," Pastor Tate added. "What changes are you considering?"
Once the Q & A portion of the night began, the recollections of previous police wrongdoings and points of contention began to mount. The police gave careful, diplomatic answers.
But the answers did little to soothe the crowd. As one departing audience member put it, "They're here to bore us to tears and make us not care."
Portland Cable Access (Channel 30) will air the forum in its five-hour entirety on Friday, starting at 1:30 pm, and again on Monday at noon.