When yet another Black man was killed by police and mass protests took place throughout the country, including here in Portland, hundreds and thousands of people took to the streets to seek redress from their government and demand change. They demanded that we rethink what community safety looks like, who shows up, and how they show up. We’ve been pushed to answer, what does community safety look like if you’re poor? What does it look like if you’re not white? If you have no or limited resources? Those are the questions I’ve been compelled to answer.
What we have right now does not work. You cannot look me in the eye and tell me that a Bureau responding violently to protesters every night works for us. Or that over 50% of all the bureaus arrestees are houseless individuals works for us. Or that a Bureau shown to stop black drivers twice as much as white drivers works for us. Or a Bureau that has accumulated over $6,000,000 in overtime works for us.
People are asking us to reinvest in communities - not to study, not to create new training programs, not to make more tables. We’ve had a lot of studies, tables, and committees, yet the outcomes in our police bureau have yet to change.
Over and over again, our communities have given us a clear mandate to rethink community safety. In June we started this journey by reallocating $15 million from the Police Bureau and redirecting those funds towards community investments. We came into this budget with the same goal of investing in our communities and reducing police by providing mutual aid because if Portlanders can’t depend on Portland to keep them safe and supported, who can they count on?
I’m disappointed we did not do that this time, but I am taking this as an opportunity for us as Council to work harder and more collaboratively to meet the community’s mandate because justice cannot wait. Each of us were elected to act today. Not tomorrow. Not next week.
I hope that as we continue having these conversations, we operate from a place of courage and strength to do the right thing for the people we’ve left behind. I understand that there is fear or concern over the amendment, but what I am asking those who felt uncomfortable or fearful of my amendments – whether they were too big or too fast for you, is to consider that for many Portlanders, that comfort never existed.
We can’t be coming from a place of fear. Our role as elected leaders is to move past the fear and stretch ourselves to take the action that is demanded and sorely needed by our communities.
Chief Lovell called these potential cuts to the Bureau “devastating”, but I say police violence is devastating. Losing a loved one at the hands of police is devastating. Getting pulled over for looking a certain way and then fearing for your life is devastating. Getting arrested for simply not having a place to sleep is devastating. Portlanders have been dealing with devastation for far too long at the hands of police.
BIPOC communities have been at the forefront of these demands for reinvestments. We can’t keep talking about how we as a city are committed to centering BIPOC voices but never actually act on things they call for. Listening without action is not progress, it is lip service.
I want to appreciate everyone who called, emailed, provided testimony, and took to the streets to make your demands for change resoundingly clear. I also want to appreciate community partners including Unite Oregon, Imagine Black, and Portland Metro People’s Coalition for their tireless advocacy in making sure our BIPOC communities are heard here in Council.
Lastly, I want to thank Commissioner Eudaly for supporting this amendment. She, like I, have listened to the demands of the community, and we responded together.
I look forward to continuing what we started in June.
People have spoken loud and clear and they’re watching. History is watching.