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Dr. Cynthia Fowler, PCCEP Selection Advisory Committee Member
Published: 27 June 2018

Portlanders have strong feelings about the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). We know this from the emotionally-charged demonstrations that overwhelmed downtown Portland in the last two years. We know this because of the quick dismissal of platitudes and empty reassurances from the PPB about the progress it is making.  There are many people who haven’t been happy for a long time, if ever, with how the police function here. Black and brown communities have especially been negatively impacted by police policies and behaviors. PPB has a dismal record in terms of fatal shootings by officers, racial profiling and police stops of citizens of color, particularly African-Americans. Police response varies depending on the color of your skin, where you live, and whether you are perceived to have a mental illness.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) findings don’t appear to have had any impact on community outcomes thus far.   The term” community policing” is used often —  and with the hiring of Chief Danielle Outlaw, I recognize that PPB has a renewed focus on what this means for the organization and Portlanders — but I’m not yet convinced that there is any policy or philosophy that could fundamentally address the schism between law enforcement and marginalized communities in our city.

I imagine that there could be many ways to change PPB’s behavior, but I’m convinced that community members need to have a lot more input into how policing happens in this city for things to improve. The PCCEP (Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing) creates an independent citizen board that would exist beyond the life of the Settlement Agreement.  Notably, the PCCEP has been given the authority to demand review of critical PPB policies, in addition to contributing to the development of the community engagement plan.   

Why should you apply for PCCEP?

We know that someone will sit on this committee--why not you?  The very communities that are most impacted by bad policing are usually not in the room when policies are developed. This is your chance to not just be in the room—but to get a seat at the table. The PCCEP needs those who are typically left out of discussions and not heard– the poor, people of color, the mentally ill, and youth–to apply for and sit on this committee. Impacted communities deserve the space to speak their own truths because they are the most qualified to do so.  Whatever impact the PCCEP can have on policy development will be felt most strongly in these same communities.  Think about how your work could even save the life of someone you care about. 

This is a chance for your ideas about what community policing should look like to be reflected in actual policies.  We want to attract passionate people who care about what is happening in our city.  People with lived experience through their interactions with PPB and those who are unhappy with policing in Portland are encouraged to apply.  This committee needs to function as a real voice that will speak the truth about policing and how issues of bias, racism, power, the systematic devaluation of non-white lives, and a lack of empathy affect how police interact with communities. Now, I’m aware enough to know that the problems with law enforcement are a reflection of the larger systemic issues within American institutions – policing is an extension of what has insidiously woven itself into the fabric of this country over generations.  We have to attack systemic injustice at as many points as possible and in as many ways as we can.  The PCCEP is one of the ways that an informed, motivated, and diverse group of Portlanders can try to set PPB on a better path.

PCCEP members must be at least 16 years old and live, work, worship, and/or go to school in Portland. The time commitment is a minimum of 8 hours per month. Meetings will be in the evening and will be catered. Members will receive a stipend for their participation. PCCEP applications are due Monday, July 2. You can fill out an online version of the application, print an application from the Mayor’s website, pick up a hard copy at the Mayor’s Office, or call Mandi Hood at 503-319-7736 to request a paper copy by mail.

Dr. Cynthia Fowler is committed to working for racial equity and justice. Her 15+ years of work as a psychiatrist have prepared her well to work effectively with diverse groups of people to affect change within our systems. Dr. Fowler is currently serving as chair of the Health committee of the Portland NAACP, creating anti-racism curricula, serving on the Board of Directors for Right to Health, was recently added to the Board of Directors of the Oregon Peace Institute and volunteers with the SMART program as a reader for kindergarteners. 

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