Wilder Schmaltz

MONTHS AFTER Mayor Sam Adams publicly promised swift action on a package of nearly four dozen tweaks to Portland's police oversight system, the proposals—including several expected to prove intensely controversial—remain mired in political limbo.

And although Adams repeated his promise at another city council meeting last month, his office has yet to commit to a more detailed timeline for considering the proposals. Now some advocates are beginning to publicly question whether city officials are serious about pursuing even the handful of reform ideas that have widespread agreement.

"It's safe to say the community has one view on that," said Jamie Troy, chairman of the city's Citizen Review Committee (CRC), during a June 22 public forum on community/police relations. "Other power players in the city have a different view."

The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, meanwhile, sent its own letter seeking answers a day later.

Asked about those sentiments Tuesday, July 5, Adams' chief of staff, Warren Jimenez, promised that his boss "is interested in picking this up again"—blaming some of the delay on the Joint Terrorism Task Force negotiations this year—but said substantive discussions with the Portland Police Bureau and others had yet to be scheduled.

"Our approach is let's figure out the ones we agree to, and let's move those forward," Jimenez says.

Work on the proposals began last summer, not long after the Portland City Council approved a dramatic expansion of civilian oversight—including the creation of a new Police Review Board to review allegations of officer misconduct.

The idea was to find ways to keep improving the system, even as officials were just beginning to roll it out. That effort was led by Commissioner Randy Leonard, who gathered dozens of advocates and police representatives in a group called the Police Stakeholder Oversight Committee.

The committee almost collapsed amid fierce infighting, but by the fall, enough of its members had managed to agree on enough recommendations that a report eventually was sent to the Portland City Council.

Some ideas were incredibly contentious, like allowing the Citizen Review Committee, a civilian group that hears appeals of misconduct cases, among other jobs, to consider new evidence. Another would allow the Independent Police Review (IPR) office to force police officers to provide testimony—a change the city would need to bargain with its police unions.

But many are considered no-brainers, like extending the terms of CRC members from two years to three, giving them more time to master their duties.

City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade, who oversees the IPR, said she's been ready to craft some of those proposals into ordinances, and even sat down with Adams last month.

"But I have to say," she said, "at the request of a number of folks, we've been waiting for a larger discussion by council."

Leonard, for his part, says he never promised the committee that its work would ever result in anything more than a report. He also said there's less urgency to make improvements now that Adams and Chief Mike Reese—seen as more open and effective than their predecessors—are in charge of the Portland Police Bureau.

"The dynamics are different," he said. "I don't feel the compulsion to take the lead on this."