Not two weeks into his tenure at the top of the Portland Police Bureau, Chief Mike Marshman faces his second major challenge this evening (here's the first). In the wake of the deeply troubling on-camera deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile near St. Paul, Minn., Portlanders are preparing a couple of protests.
These kinds of demonstrations have sprouted again and again since the high-profile 2014 death of Michael Brown, and, more often than not, they require a lot of police resources. It's not uncommon for officers in full riot gear to track the progress of marches, hoping to anticipate when demonstrators are planning to shut down a bridge or block a viaduct. Sometimes they deploy pepper spray or rubber bullets. A "kettling"incident from November 2014 continues to draw controversy.
So how's Marshman preparing for the protests? Partly by issuing a memo to his officers.
"Recent officer-involved shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge have once again brought to the forefront people’s fears and mistrust of police," he wrote in a message to cops this afternoon. "While these shootings occurred thousands of miles from Portland, we live in an age of constant media and social media dialogue that raises emotions in our own community. Those emotions are a reality that we need to acknowledge and then continue to talk to people about what we are doing here in our community."
Marshman says he reached out to unnamed leaders of the African American community today "to let them know we understand the fear and anger these recent shootings and past shootings have raised." The message then goes on to list talking points officers can give to community members, and rattle of a number of positive interactions Marshman's seen officers have with the community.
As was clear from our interview with Marshman last week, the new chief's putting a premium on building trust with the community. Releasing his personnel file and a criminal investigation into his conduct was one way of attempting that. The PPB's handling of this evening's protests offers another opportunity.
Hit the jump for Marshman's full memo.
July 7, 2016
Dear Bureau members:
Recent officer-involved shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge have once again brought to the forefront people’s fears and mistrust of police. While these shootings occurred thousands of miles from Portland, we live in an age of constant media and social media dialogue that raises emotions in our own community. Those emotions are a reality that we need to acknowledge and then continue to talk to people about what we are doing here in our community.
This afternoon I made calls to local leaders in our African-American community to let them know we understand the fear and anger these recent shootings and past shootings have raised. I want them to know we share those concerns and asked them to continue to join us in building trust within our community.
We have worked hard at the Portland Police Bureau and it shows. I encourage you to talk to people about our accomplishments:
•Out of 380,738 calls for service last year, less than1% resulted in any kind of force. Even when we made arrests, only 2.8% resulted in force.
•Last year we had six officer-involved shootings (3 of them non-fatal) and in 2014, we had three. The public’s perception is that these incidents happen much more often and these numbers are important to share. We are also committed to transparency; details of all these shootings and their investigations are on our website.
•Our Behavioral Health Unit and our ECIT and CIT officers deescalate situations daily that in the past could have ended differently.
•We are working with the DOJ on policies and training revisions that have already deeply impacted our organization for the better.
And finally, Bureau members are out every day in our community talking to people and engaging youth.
Just over the last week, I’ve seen photos of Officer Kent Scott consoling a person he just arrested; Officer Carrie Hutchison playing basketball with kids; Officer Jose Jimenez participating in a push-up contest with a little boy; Lieutenant Ryan Lee letting a little boy try on his jacket (posted by the boy’s mom); Officer Ryan Bren with the help from other officers buying a bicycle after he couldn’t recover a local boy’s stolen one; and the Central bike patrol playing soccer with kids in Brentwood Park. And these were just the incidents that we had photos of. There are many more that never get photographed or documented, but I know they occur.
I read a comment on our Facebook page about an unknown officer who not just handed a kid a sticker, but took the time to make it into a game. The mom posted the officer put community engagement right as his number one priority. And just yesterday I received a grateful letter from a woman who went on a ride-along with Central Precinct Officer Kevin Allen. She said Kevin and other Central Precinct officers were “warm, engaging and quick to help her understand any given situation.” She’s a new fan.
Each and every one of you has the opportunity to make a difference in our community every day—whether you are in operations, investigations or services. You are doing it. Don’t stop. This is a critical time for law enforcement and you are making an impact.
Thank you for all you do.