In a move which I find hard not to characterize as deliberately antagonistic, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard and City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade are pushing for a vote this week on a resolution to strengthen the citizen police oversight board while Police Chief Rosie Sizer is out of town. This would be the first major overhaul of the citizen review board since 2001. After only 5 days of public process, minus the Chief’s input, Leonard and Griffin-Valade are demanding an immediate vote. Leonard characterized a request to delay the hearing until more public input and the Chief’s return from her overseas trip as a strategy of delay under the guise of ‘public process’ [which will] defer to those who will go to any length to resist transparency at the Portland Police Bureau.” http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/03/randy_leonard_portland_auditor.html
An empowered citizen police review board is vital. But due process works in both directions. The Police Chief’s complete participation in the process will only serve to strengthen the review board. Chief Sizer has gone to great lengths to make the force more accountable and transparent, from revising the training of Police Officers in the use of force to instituting processes to review racial profiling. Under her tenure deadly incidents have decreased 40%. There’s no doubt more work needs to be done, but I can’t help viewing this through my lens of conflict resolution facilitator. Leonard’s escalatory style, while it may serve to push through a resolution, will not ultimately provide the City of Portland with what it needs most: a better relationship between members of the Police force and the city of Portland.