PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — City staff suggested changes to the bylaws of one of the Portland’s largest police oversight groups on Wednesday night.
The Portland Community-Engaged Policing Committee was formed in part to help increase police accountability and oversight, which is why several members voiced concerns over these proposed changes, which could grant the city more power and less accountability.
Group members expressed confusion and concern during the public meeting after the mayor’s office proposed drafted changes to the group’s bylaws.
“The very important parts that we said we wanted to do, they’re gone,” said PCCEP member Gloria Canson.
“I really am concerned when we change the mission without people having actual input. And I was told, as all of us were, that you were ‘taking suggestions,’ but suggestions are just that,” added Ann Campbell, who also is a part of the group.
Formed in 2018, the advisory board was designed to act as a liaison between police and the public.
While overseeing the 2014 settlement agreement between the department of justice and the city regarding excessive force used by police against people with mental illness, some of the drafted changes presented by the city include removing mention of the DOJ settlement from the mission and goals, removing requirements for the mayor’s office to support and changing the policy which states the mayor can remove a PCCEP member for misconduct to granting him “discretion to determine when PCCEP members are no longer fit to serve on the committee.”
Representatives with the mayor’s office say the draft is only a proposal that PCCEP may change and respond to.
“It is not an attempt to try to change PCCEP or control PCCEP. It’s truly just trying to relieve the administrative burden on all of you and give you something to work with that would hopefully address the concerns you’ve shared with us,” said Stephanie Howard, Director of Community Safety.
As one of the city’s primary oversight groups, members and the public alike voiced concerns over how those changes, if passed, could impact accountability.
“We need people not to come in and be aggressive, but to come in and take a stand and to have a voice that is maybe going to be (a) counter. So, it really feels problematic to have the mayor say, ‘I want to be less involved in the day-to-day, I’m going to share this responsibility, but I want to have more power to remove people for less reasons,'” said community member Jake Dockter.