Portland Comm. Jo Ann Hardesty
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News Release
City Council votes unanimously to refer measure to amend city charter with new police oversight system - 07/29/20

This afternoon, Portland City Council voted unanimously in support of a resolution introduced by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty that refers a measure to add a new police oversight system into the city charter.

In response to the resolution passage, Commissioner Hardesty says, “I am beyond thrilled that council voted to move forward to give voters the chance to put this long-overdue system into effect. While we’re celebrating this moment with the community, the work only begins with the results of today’s vote.”

Hardesty continues, “As I mentioned before, accountability is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to making our communities safer – that includes safety from police violence. We have much more work ahead of us to meet the needs of this moment.”

Today’s council vote gives voters in November the opportunity to vote on a ballot measure that would authorize the creation of a new police oversight system. If the ballot measure passes in November, a commission would be established to work with the community to create the specific details of the new system. Additionally, legal changes would also need to take place before the new system could fully take off.

“I want to thank Commissioner Hardesty for her leadership on this issue,” said Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. “Her decades of work on racial justice issues and police accountability has brought invaluable experience to City Council, and I’m pleased to support this ballot referral. Portlanders have been demanding change, and this measure empowers our community to make their voices heard in November.”

Council heard almost two hours of public testimony ranging from electeds to community members and advocates showing up to voice their overwhelming support for this much needed accountability measure.

In his council testimony, Dr. Leroy Haynes of the AMA Coalition for Justice and Police Reform said, “One of the most valuable means of transforming the killing of unarmed citizens of Portland is their lack of accountability. There are no consequences when unarmed black and brown people or mentally ill people are killed by deadly force in the City of Portland. This is why the AMA Coalition for Justice and Police Reform have supported the need for an independent police review board with subpoena powers to compel testimony.”

“As we grapple with the issue of police brutality and our own community has been subject to an unlawful occupation by federal officers, it is clear that Portlanders are demanding a new direction in regards to public safety,” said Alex Davis, a PCC Student. His testimony continues, “Is it a bold request to give the community a substantial voice in a bureau that receives nearly $250 million in our tax dollars? Is it a bold request to involve people from historically overpoliced communities? For too long the power in the relationship between the police and the community has been vested in the police. Now, in order to move forward the power must be vested in those to whom it truly belongs: the citizens.”

Candace Avalos, Citizen Review Committee chair, includes in her testimony, “Good intentions in a broken system is no longer enough. What has the powers that be done with all the community feedback collected over the many years? How many more years do we need to spend repeating our demands before leaders actually take our requests seriously? It’s time for less talking, more action. We owe it to Portlanders to respond to their nightly demands for justice with bold legislation that addresses the heart of the protests: truly independent review of the police to hold them accountable for the harm they caused the community.”

This new oversight system would be different from the city’s current system in several critical ways:

  • The new body would have final say within the city on discipline;
  • It would be able to directly impact PPB policies and directives;
  • It would be removed from all bureaus and elected offices;
  • It would mandate adequate funding for this critical work; and

It would also have expanded investigatory powers including better access to evidence and ability to compel testimony.

More work remains to be done as Commissioner Hardesty continues working on the larger issue of community safety.

View more news releases from Portland Comm. Jo Ann Hardesty.