PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As gun violence skyrockets in the community and racial justice remains a concern, how do we make the community safer for everyone?
Members of the Portland, Lake Oswego and Hillsboro community and law enforcement took part in a virtual âBuilding Bridges Summitâ Thursday evening to discuss these same issues.
Panelists at the virtual âBuilding Bridges Summitâ spoke about what public safety means to them. Members of the BIPOC communities expressed their lingering concerns about interactions with the police and what they would like to see happen.
“More transparency from the police and knowing that we feel safe,” said panelist Selma Sheikh.
They also dug into what could be done to make neighborhoods safer in an era of increasing drug abuse and record gun violence.
“I also think it is important to have preventive measures to help young people in communities so that they do not get involved in the streets and in gangs, which leads to a lot of gun violence,” said said Tesahe Tunson, a community ambassador of The word is link.
PPB deputy chief Mike Frome said in the past the office had not learned well from the community and added that hiring people willing to do so will be the key to making a difference.
âThis is what police in general and the Portland police need to focus on,â Frome said at a community meeting Thursday night. âWe need to step back and start listening to our communities. We need to make sure we hire people who are ready to listen and get to know people. “
Frome and other law enforcement officials at the virtual “Building Bridges Summit” said they saw changes in the types of people who are hired to become police officers. They cite more diversity and a change in mindset.
“We are hiring people who can understand the value of seeing people as people and listening to their stories, and I think in the future that will prevent the bad results we don’t all want with the police,” Frome said.
Lt. Jincy Pace, who heads the Hillsboro Police Department’s community engagement team, agreed.
âI think probably the most important thing we do, just in general, culture is the kind of people we hire, it’s huge. We’re hiring a different type of person as police officers than 20 years ago, âPace said. âDuring my 20 year career, I have observed the culture within the police community only, I have seen it change. What officers talked about and how they talked about 15 to 20 years ago when I started my career is not the way we talk now.
Pace added that Hillsboro “hires very diverse people with very diverse voices” who think about different ways of getting the job done.
Lake Oswego Police Chief Dale Jorgensen said the police must start “to be at the forefront of different ideas”.
âUntil we are nimble and able to find these niches that work for each of our communities, we will never really reach that community policing,â Jorgensen said.
He also said police departments need to find implicit and explicit biases and better train officers.
âWe are preparing, for example, in our department to engage with Project Evolve, Project Red Door and this upcoming group and give us training on the biases that we all have,â he said. “We are eager to engage in these conversations and then maybe find some of these officers who have some of these biases and overcome them.”
“It was a bloody summer”
Earlier Thursday, Mayor Ted Wheeler told KOIN 6 News what he hopes the city will do to move the police forward after a summer of staff shortages and gun violence.
âMany community members who testified in March said, ‘If we don’t do anything, it will be a bloody summer,’â Wheeler said. “Guess what? It was. It was a bloody summer.
The mayor also explained why the Gun Violence Reduction Team was disbanded.
âThe GVRT was dissolved for several reasons,â he said. âNumber 1, there have been several audits which have shown that he is not accountable and transparent. There were also audits which showed that there was an element of disproportion in the way the police were conducted. “
Wheeler said he believes he now has adequate support within Portland City Council to advance the permanent staffing of the Targeted Response Team (FIT), which is supposed to help put end gun violence before it starts.
“It creates a police-centric unit that comes out and specifically tries to intervene and prevent gun violence,” he said. âHe is working with the new reinforced community security team on the follow-up to the investigation. So if there are bad actors, we can take them off the streets and we can sue them. “
The mayor said FIT is expected to be on the ground in November.