The city's got until late November to pick a "compliance officer/community liaison" that will scrutinize police activity, listen to community concerns, and, hopefully, shepherd Portland toward a future where the mentally ill aren't at outsized risk of being beaten by cops, as the US Department of Justice says they have been. The job pays handsomely—$240,000 a year—but two of the finalists will be divvying that money if selected.
John Campbell, a local facilitator and consultant who's worked extensively with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) over the years, unveiled a team of seven people he'd bring to bear if selected. Campbell made clear he'd be the primary actor, along with local labor attorney (and German-car blamer) Akin Blitz. But he'll have help— notably from local mental health professionals and former police officials (including erstwhile Hillsboro Police Chief Ron Louie, who saw controversy in efforts to reform his former department). As Denis has pointed out, Campbell was the only of the finalists not to have some personal history in dealing with people in mental health crises. The size and scope of his team is plainly one way to address that.
Campbell spent much of his 25-minute presentation discussing his background as a Portlander, including efforts as a neighborhood activist and experience working to bolster citizen oversight of cops. And he stressed that the settlement is confusing, and will require diligence.
"If there's people who understand the opportunity for this to accomplish not a lot, that would be us," Campbell told the selection committee. "Let's make this one matter."
Also coming in force is Dennis Rosenbaum [pdf], who announced a five-person team he'd use if chosen. Rosenbaum is a criminology professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, and he's studied perceptions of policing in cities across the country (including here). He's also been invited to participate in reforms like the one Portland's undergoing in the past, he said, but this is the first time he's been interested.
"I see Portland as a progressive place that could adopt innovation," Rosenbaum said. "There’s an opportunity for a new model here that is driven by the people and not Washington (DC)."
But there's a hitch. Rosenbaum's team is mostly comprised of data-crunching professors from Chicago and South Carolina. It's a team unquestionably steeped in police policy (including how cops deal with people in mental health crisis) and fiddling with the metrics that can bolster evidence-based decision making, but Rosenbaum's presentation was the least engaging, and it wasn't totally clear how frequently most team members would be around. To address that, he's recruited former Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul De Muniz to act as a local liaison.
The last finalist, Oregon Drug and Alcohol Policy Commission Executive Director Daniel Ward [pdf], had the most personal and engaging presentation. Ward described how he's battled depression for 25 years, and laid out a lengthy history of working with addictions and mental illness. He's lost friends to suicide, Ward says, and one of his children "survived a use-of-force incident with an officer."
"All of these lived experience have given me an understanding of the issues facing the city of Portland," he said.
If he gets the job, Ward said he'd have an open-office policy, where community members could feel free to bring him their concerns. He'd tap into relationships with law enforcement officials in Colorado and elsewhere for outside perspective, and he would "expect to learn a lot continually." He'd also be flying largely solo, where the other finalists have teams of folks from a variety of disciplines. Its possible that will hurt him in the eyes of the selection committee.
This morning's presentations were only the beginning. Each of the candidates also met with three different subgroups of the selection committee. The committee will decide this afternoon whether to forward all three names for public review and comment. If the committee doesn't, it could reset the whole process—something certain mental health advocates have called for, anyway, claiming none of the finalists are capable of handling the task (though that was before the full teams had been assembled).