Portland's federally-mandated police oversight group will not be forced into a hiatus due to city staffing issues, according to Mayor Ted Wheeler.
The Portland Commission on Community-Engaged Policing (PCCEP) is a volunteer group tasked with overseeing Portland Police Bureau's (PPB) adherence to a settlement agreement made with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2014 after the feds found PPB officers had a "pattern and practice" of using disproportionate force against people with a mental illness.
Last week, Wheeler met with PCCEP to recommend putting the monthly meetings on pause for 60 days, as the city lacked staffing to orchestrate and manage the meetings—and Wheeler wanted to address several concerns members had raised about the program itself. This suggestion felt familiar to those who've been following the DOJ settlement agreement work from the start, as the previous iteration of PCCEP had dissolved after the city put it on a 60-day hiatus in 2016.
PCCEP members pushed back on Wheeler's recommendation last week, and held a symbolic vote in opposition to the idea after he left the meeting. Members said they felt abandoned by the mayor's office and didn't feel like the city was taking their work seriously, pointing to the empty seats on the PCCEP board that the city has yet to fill.
It appears their response made an impact.
On Tuesday, Wheeler sent a letter to PCCEP members explaining that, "Based upon our discussions about a 60-day hiatus from all PCCEP meetings to address these challenges, I do not believe that a complete hiatus is the answer at this time."
"Instead, the City will find resources to support PCCEP as best it can until full-time staff is hired," Wheeler continued. He then laid out 12 goals his office hopes to achieve in the next 60 days regarding PCCEP, including hiring new administrative staff to support PCCEP, recruiting people to fill vacant PCCEP positions, hiring a facilitator for PCCEP board meetings, and planning a PCCEP retreat. What's more, Wheeler made plans to hold a PCCEP meeting before the upcoming April 29 settlement check-in hearing in front of a federal judge to allow members to feel prepared to address the court. Prior to this letter, PCCEP members had planned on not speaking at the court hearing.
Wheeler has decided to put all PCCEP subcommittee meetings on hold during the 60-day period. He wrote that they will begin meeting again once the city has hired staff to coordinate these meetings.
"I believe this 60-day plan incorporates the feedback we have received and will help strengthen the foundation for PCCEP moving forward," Wheeler wrote. "My administration is committed to supporting PCCEP’s mission. Implementing this plan is a top priority and an important part of improving community safety and engagement in our city."