THE DEADLINE for concerned citizens to apply for the police bureau's new, much-needed Training Advisory Council came and went last Friday, August 31.
That should have been a big day for police accountability advocates champing at the bit to have a real conversation with cop brass about how and what the bureau should teach its officers about community relations, mental illness, and the use of force ["To Be or Not to Be... Silent," Hall Monitor, Aug 23].
But because of the secrecy provisions that govern the training council (members must legally promise, by signing a nondisclosure agreement, not to discuss their work without permission), two of the most passionate police watchdogs in town sent letters to Mayor Sam Adams explaining why they weren't going to apply.
"We would like to have a representative join the PPB [Portland Police Bureau] training council," wrote Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland, explaining that "we would join because how the PPB leads, other Oregon police departments will follow...
"But our community needs to know what that council is doing—before they do it," he continued. "Drop the requirement for the nondisclosure agreement to apply for the PPB training council, and we may join you."
A day earlier, Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch also tried to talk some sense into city hall—arguing that transparency might actually improve the training council's work.
"Perhaps sensitive material could be redacted so that the general public can access the same information that the council will be receiving," he wrote, "thus providing more transparency and a broader scope of input than will undoubtedly come from the council under its current restrictions."
Handelman, bless his doggedness, also pointed out something else in the application process that I missed: Not only do applicants have to sign away their freedom of speech, but they also have to promise not to associate with known criminals and they cannot have ever had a serious scrape with the law themselves.
"Putting aside whether people who've engaged in civil disobedience or been wrongfully arrested for whatever reason," he wrote to Adams, the training council "actually could benefit from input coming from people who have been through 'the system.'"
As of press time, there was no word from Adams' office, beset by vacations, on a response to those concerns. Nor was there word about how many people actually applied for the gig—although a spokeswoman for the office did say she was working to track that down.
Which means we don't know how many would-be applicants followed Renaud and Handelman's lead—and whether, if enough people stayed away, the bureau might actually change course.