AS PROMISED—since even before a federal judge approved the city's police reform deal with the US Department of Justice last month—Portland City Hall is charging along with plans to hire an independent monitor who will ensure the city delivers on its vows of change.
On Friday, September 5, the Mercury was the first to identify the three remaining candidates for what will be, for the next few years, one of the most important jobs in city government.
And that disclosure—coming a few days before a planned announcement by city officials—is raising some uncomfortable questions.
Despite the reform deal's focus on limiting police officers' use of force against people with mental illness, only two of the three finalists vying to serve as the city's new "compliance officer/community liaison" (COCL) would bring notably deep expertise with mental health policy or training, the Mercury found after obtaining copies of their applications.
Moreover, while all three men appear generally versed in police issues, none come with the kind of reputation that might help an independent monitor stand up to city hall and police leadership.
And each candidate is at least a little familiar to police brass—having either written letters praising officers, been commissioned by the police bureau to work on a survey, or been previously paid to do consulting work.
A special selection committee will meet in public later this month and decide whether the three finalists are fit for final interviews with the city's elected officials. But there's a wrinkle: If the committee decides one or more of the finalists isn't worthy, then city officials would have to reopen the hiring process.
A few mental health advocates who've been actively cheering for a do-over would welcome that. But it would be a major pain for the city, which now has until November 28—90 days after the reform deal was approved—to hire a monitor.
The COCL will earn $240,000 a year—a pot of money that could be split among a team of hired helpers. Consider this your introduction:
• Daniel Ward, executive director of the Oregon Drug and Alcohol Policy Commission</p>
Ward, who's studied psychology, has led this commission only since last year. He last worked for a Denver-area nonprofit that worked with police agencies on mental health issues.
Earlier this year, before he submitted his application, he wrote a letter praising two Portland officers' handling of a mental health call. The letter, as reported by the Oregonian, was read aloud by Mayor Charlie Hales at a Gang Violence Task Force meeting—and earned the cops Starbucks gift cards, courtesy of Hales.
• Dennis Rosenbaum, executive director of the National Police Research Platform and a professor of criminology at the University of Illinois at Chicago
Rosenbaum is known for his work helping police agencies across the country better understand how popular they might (or might not) be—crafting surveys that the cops mail out to people who've been in crashes, people in traffic stops, and people who call police to report crimes. Portland, as the Mercury reported last fall, is one of those cities.
A similar survey in Chicago, Rosenbaum told a newspaper there, confirmed a "silent majority" of respondents thought favorably of officers.
Rosenbaum would bring along three academics familiar with community policing and mental health. One of those scholars has worked with cops on crisis and mental health training.
• John Campbell, president of Campbell DeLong Resources, Inc.
Campbell, a facilitator and consultant, has had a handful of contracts with the Portland Police Bureau.
In 2010, he was hired to run a special city committee—made up of police commanders, union officials, accountability advocates, critics, and others—that brainstormed ways to further strengthen citizen police oversight in Portland. The committee's report languished, however, with many of its suggestions dismissed.
Campbell's also worked with the bureau's Service Coordination Team and facilitated its Business Optimization Task Force. But when asked about his team's mental health experience, he said this: "Some, but we are not experts."