THE ENTRY listed second-to-last in Commissioner Amanda Fritz's calendar for the week starting October 27 wasn't out of the ordinary, given her lead role in helping Portland City Council face the implications of its recently approved police reform deal with the US Department of Justice.
It named two mental health advocates—Beckie Child and Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland—who've been more than outspoken about how all that work's been going.
Both have spent time this year giving advice on how to shape the crucial community oversight elements of the reform deal—which is meant to address findings that Portland cops have engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force against people with mental illness. And this meeting, held on October 31, might have been more of the same.
Except it wasn't.
According to a private recap that Renaud emailed to some other volunteers—later obtained by the Mercury and also sent to Fritz herself—Fritz explicitly offered a mea culpa for a trust-shattering development in city hall's handling of police reform: an appeal, filed on October 27, challenging a federal judge's order that officials return to court at least once a year to show their work. That move, approved in a vote on October 22, brought on heaps of scorn from perplexed police accountability advocates.
Fritz had acknowledged the difficulty, even during the vote, in standing apart from the community. But she clung to her reasoning that city hall, not a federal judge, needs to reign as the arbiter of change.
That stance seems to have softened. Renaud's email said Fritz not only regretted championing the appeal alongside Mayor Charlie Hales, but that she'd also try to reverse it.
When I asked her about the email, Fritz confirmed her reservations—but spoke carefully on whether she'd actually call for a withdrawal.
"I'm concerned that the community didn't agree with our reasons for appealing," Fritz told me. "And I will be looking to see if there's a way for us to get on the same page."
The email went on to mention a few other tidbits that both Fritz and Renaud probably would have preferred remained private.
Renaud wagered that soon-to-retire Police Chief Mike Reese might try to challenge Hales in 2016—with the warning that the conversation on police reforms would grow "ugly" in the event that actually came to pass.
Renaud also said Fritz was bullish on the prospects of funding a drop-off or walk-in center for people in crisis—a much-ballyhooed piece of the reform deal later revealed as merely "aspirational" ["An Empty Mandate," News, Feb 19]. And he mentioned that Fritz was hoping to demand a cut of the city's surplus money in the hopes of hiring, for the first time, a devoted mental health specialist.
Fritz, in a budget session on Tuesday, November 4, called that one out without prompting. She told me she thought it made perfect sense, what with Hales asking for six new jobs in the police bureau to work on police reforms.
The reform deal, she'd like to remind her colleagues, is all about mental health.
"That doesn't make any sense," she said of hiring more police staffers before a mental health coordinator. "There's a huge disconnect."