02-19-2017  8:07 pm      •     

While giving praise to Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer's latest plan to end racial profiling, critics still say there are issues that remain unaddressed by the police bureau.
Led by members and supporters of Oregon Action, community leaders told the city council that individual police officers need to be held personally accountable, the city council needs to take a more direct responsibility for the actions of the police bureau, training must be improved and business cards should be handed out during every interaction an officer has with the public.
"Police do have to present themselves in a more humane manner," James Wilson, said during testimony.
The criticism and praise was leveled during the Sept. 2 Portland City Council Meeting where Sizer presented the newest Plan to Address Racial Profiling, originally released in January of this year. The plan was the culmination of community meetings dating back to 1999. After establishing a series of community listening sessions in 2006, the city's Racial Profiling Committee contributed to the bureau's plan. A copy of the plan can be downloaded here:
Joann Bowman – who chaired the Racial Profiling Committee – told the commissioners that all of the efforts to put a stop to the elusive problem might be futile. The city's fight against gang activity tends to target only minority youth.
"I have the expectation that officers are well trained enough not to stop every African American male child from the ages of 12 to 24," she said. "But the effort is so broadly focused that every African American or Hispanic child is impacted."
Other testimony suggested that the problem was nearly invisible to most White people. One White commenter said once he left the meeting, he didn't have to worry about racial profiling – not so for those with darker skin.
Clifford Walker, chairman of the Oregon Commission on Black Affairs, said he could still recall when the city opened drinking fountains and housing to Blacks and was optimistic that an end to racial profiling was in sight. But when he looked at all the buildings and streets named after White supremacists and slave owners, it made it hard for him to escape the notion that the city honored such racism.
Barry Stull said the proliferation of racial profiling is due to our 80-year-old national prohibition of drugs. It is well-documented that fear and racism against Mexicans, African Americans and Chinese were the primary reasons marijuana, cocaine and opium were originally made illegal in the early half of the 20th century.
"Our drug laws are inherently racist," Stull said, looking no further than the vast disparity in the number of African Americans who are jailed or who are searched for contraband, despite studies that show they are less likely to be found with illegal drugs.
While critics had plenty to say, they also had plenty to praise. Bowman and others said Sizer is genuinely concerned about putting a stop to the practice. Sizer herself was surprisingly candid when she revealed her own subconscious prejudices – prejudices she says she doesn't act on and works to dismiss. She says other police officers are no different.
"We hire from the American public," she said. "They are not immune from racial bias."
She said she was proud to change the definition of racial profiling from a "sole reliance on race" to perform a stop to an "inappropriate reliance on race" to decide to stop an individual.
She says she continues to make the business-related case for dealing with racial profiling – a practice that former Police Union President Robert King long denied was a problem. It hurts officer safety, it's the right thing to do, reduces risk of expensive litigation and police can be more effective in their societal role.
Regardless of praise and criticism, the real world practices of police and the community they patrol will soon have the final word on what parts of the plan work and what don't. Sizer says she plans to issue an annual report on its effectiveness and update the plan as she sees fit.
With a renewed plan to hire a department that reflects its community, a new records system, new training, community involvement in hires and in-dash cameras for every patrol car, Sizer hopes it can begin repairing a very long history of animosity between communities of color and the officers that patrol their neighborhoods.
Much of that animosity still lives with people in Portland.
"Keep the police out of their faces," said Helen Sherman, a longtime resident. "Stop killing our people!"

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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