AFTER ONE AND A HALF DAYS of talks by last Wednesday afternoon, June 11, the members of the mayor's racial profiling committee were standing on a huge tarp, trying to turn it over without stepping off.
The exercise, paid for with your tax dollars, was suggested by the group's facilitator, Kristen Lensen, who told people to try turning the tarp over if they felt the committee had made any real progress during its two-day retreat at the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel. Eventually, the tarp was turned, but there was no whooping for joy. Mostly, the whole effort felt a little embarrassing.
The committee has been meeting since January 2007, and by the end of last week's meeting it had yet to make any progress other than identifying three goals for the next year, including the execution of small-group situations in which police and the community can interact positively.
The committee agreed, during its brainstorming session on last Tuesday afternoon, June 10, that it needs to make "concrete decisions." It needs to have some "tangible things [it] can achieve." The next day, everyone watched a documentary about white privilege, had a discussion, and then, moved toward setting the group's goals.
But for some, progress is too slow. Just before the tarpaulin turning, the Mercury asked the committee's co-chair, Jo Ann Bowman of Oregon Action, how she felt things were going.
"I was really clear with the mayor's office in the run up to this retreat that if I didn't start seeing progress, then an alternative may be to pursue a class-action lawsuit," she said, clearly frustrated.
Bowman said she has been talking with attorneys interested in helping her file such a suit, and that she needs to see firm progress out of the committee by November or she plans to move ahead.
"If she is serious about making changes at the police bureau, she needs to stay at the table," says the mayor's public safety policy director, Maria Rubio. "Change takes time and we're just now beginning to see some consensus."