Police Chief Rosie Sizer finally presented her plan to address racial profiling to city council last week. Two and a half years overdue, it suggests increased recruitment of minority candidates and better "tolerance" training for police officers. However, there will be no collection of individual officers' stop statistics to see which officers might be racially profiling—Sizer seems more concerned about cops who stop too many black people being "scapegoated" in the press, than making sure any bad apples are held accountable. (Should we thank the police union?)
Mayor Sam Adams cited the president's recent "beer summit" (i.e., the Henry Louis Gates incident) at the White House as evidence that Portland is ahead of a national trend on discussing racial profiling by police. Afterward, Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman commended the chief for "taking this issue on." He said, "It would be easy not to take it on."
Still, Sizer proved once again last week that she is a police officer first and a politician second. She scoffed at concerns raised by Oregon Action Executive Director Jo Ann Bowman about the bureau's training videos for traffic stops—which feature a "pretty blonde woman," in Bowman's words. Eventually, the chief agreed to let community groups assess the videos after prompting from City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, but in the mayor's words, this is a "flash point" that Bowman has been raising for years.
Sizer also acknowledged the risk that the bureau's recent, more proactive efforts at gang enforcement could bring allegations of racial profiling, but said the cops were in the process of "sorting" the community. She seemed a little too defiant on this point, too, for my liking.
The real fireworks came when Sizer hit back at council for suggesting that her cops be required to give out a business card every time they contact a citizen. "I'd thank you in advance not to try to micromanage how we conduct traffic stops," she said, saying officers would have to wait until 2011 to start giving out business cards when new printers are fitted in patrol cars.
"Sometimes bureau heads use the word 'micromanaging' to avoid doing anything the council wants," said City Commissioner Randy Leonard. "I think what we're trying to do is manage the issue."
Burrrrrn! It was nice to see someone cut through the talk and actually force the chief to do something for a change. Though Sizer continued to resist, council dropped the hammer, giving her two weeks to comply. Finally, some "micromanaging" I can believe in.