...Portland’s reform efforts come in the context of a national outcry against police violence and its disproportionate impact on people of color, as well as new eagerness within the DOJ to force changes to local law enforcement. The debate about how best to reform the police—and whether police reform is even the right thing to focus on—is spreading and intensifying. Portland’s homogeneity, and its reputation for liberalism and livability make the city’s policing problems appear less acute than in, say, Ferguson, Missouri. But it’s worth asking why a city that by some measures is best equipped politically to build a better policing model hasn’t been able to do so.
The Gurule case “demonstrated that even with the settlement agreement on paper, we still have a long road ahead on implementation,” said Reverend LeRoy Haynes Jr., chair of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, which was instrumental in the development of the settlement. Haynes views that agreement as “a foundation for beginning to really—slowly—transform the Portland Police Bureau.” But, he told me, it’s no panacea. “I think the DOJ chose the easier route at the time,” he said of the department’s kid-glove approach to racial dynamics in the city. “But you can’t transform the bureau without transforming its impact on communities of color.”