Twice in the past week Jo Ann Hardesty has been acknowledged for her role in seeking police accountability … as the City of Portland and U.S. Dept. of Justice come to agreement on reforming patterns of Constitutional violations in the City’s use of force by their Police Bureau.
Consult Hardesty provided the U.S. District Court features we thought would offer the pubic the best means of testifying about effective remedies to civil rights violations by the City of Portland. On Thursday, Judge Michael Simon scheduled a Fairness Hearing (for Tuesday, 18 February, at 9am; in Courtroom 13B of the Hatfield Courthouse). Outlining his proposal from the bench, Judge Simon asked Jo Ann specifically, whether our concerns had been met.
On Wednesday this past week, Portland City Council rubber-stamped a 4-year extension to their contract with the Portland Police Association. Negotiated behind closed doors (as was the Settlement Agreement Judge Simon has before him), the public is unsure whether reforms were advocated. From the resultant language, we find they were not obtained. Failing in this, we know important DoJ Findings will remain un-addressed. When asked why the City failed to eliminate the 48 hours they give officers involved in shootings – time officers have historically used to concoct plausible accounts before being compelled to report their conduct – it was stated months are required to develop language in congruence with the State’s Employee Relations Board. Instead of negotiating a one-year contract, so Council might – for the first time – find a means to terminate officers found in violation of police use-of-force policy, they locked us into the status quo for another four years.
Portland City Council remains duplicitous about reform. If deemed fair by Judge Simon, they’ll be required to establish a Community Oversight and Accountability Board. One of the assigned tasks will be to recommend additional actions to “facilitate police/community relationships necessary to promote public safety for all Portlanders.” They have just cemented into place a cornerstone of City/police intransigence; the flawed arbitration process that prevents civilian authority from disciplining officers who kill unarmed people.
Almost all City Commissioners thanked the public for testimony (which occasioned no deep reflection, no give-and-take of serious deliberation, let alone amendments). Some singled out Jo Ann Hardesty individually. Expressing gratitude to constituents is a custom of their closing remarks. When Commissioner Steve Novick declared, “We know you’ll be back,” to community members, it brought into relief our concern for sustained public involvement as we respond to a Federal Fairness Hearing. How long can the community be counted on … to appear during business hours at City Hall and supply 120-180 seconds of testimony on deep, systemic problems … when it is nearly invariably the case that Council proceeds with no changes to whatever they’ve proposed?
On Friday, Portland City Club member Jay C. Bloom posted Arthur Brook’s New York Times opinion piece, ‘A Formula for Happiness,’ in a discussion on ‘Importance of paid and/or unpaid work.’
Here is how Roger David Hardesty responded:
Appeasing a dedicated band of uncompensated community members who ‘worked’ this past Wednesday … to fix deficiencies in the City’s contract with their police union (so officers like police sniper Ron Frashour will be disciplined, instead of – as is happening – collecting full pay for NOT reporting to his job) … Commissioner Steve Novick smiled at those seeking police accountability. “We know you’ll be back,” he said, soothingly. In fact, a majority of City Council thanked a public that had given of their time and incurred some costs, to testify before Council rubber-stamped a new 4-year contract. All in the room knew Council’s will to discipline an officer for lethal violation of policy has never been upheld, and that the City had done nothing to fix the problem.
Novick went on to share concerns the (also volunteer) Citizen Review Committee has expressed: that they will find an increased ‘work’ load unsustainable. Under terms of a proposed Settlement Agreement with the Department of Justices’ Civil Rights Division, the CRC – which meets monthly – will be allowed only 21 days to resolve public appeals to police self-exoneration.
This, at the time the City will call on fifteen community members to sit for two years on a Citizen Oversight & Advisory Board, two of whom already volunteer in other City capacities. While the five police officers and city staff will be compensated, if not accrue overtime, the rest will have to derive their job satisfaction from “pouring themselves” into community service, as the author suggests.
The work of ensuring the Constitution remains in force is important. The nobility of engaging in sincere effort will be part of the happiness reward. But we must add to the equation Portland’s long history of shunting reform – dating back to Chief Kroeker’s ‘Blue Ribbon Panel’ of 2000 – and consuming, not man-hours, but citizen-years, of public involvement since. Based on past performance that reaches into last Wednesday’s commitment to a non-remedial contract, one can predict a great deal of ‘job satisfaction’ is about to be stymied as a new generation takes up the ‘work.’
Was Novick right, in his assumption that uncompensated community members will continue to find ‘a path of happiness’ sufficient to bring them into service? Is Roosevelt’s “joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort” suddenly on offer?
I also found it disingenuous for the Commissioner to bemoan a beleaguered CRC. Council’s proposed agreement offers police tens of millions of new dollars: it does not even carve for citizen volunteers a parking space among those reserved for police and City lawyers. The author suggests happiness accrues when we find values in “faith, family, community and work.” Council takes public involvement for granted when failing to allocate even one percent of envisioned increased spending on things like child care for those who balance family with helping the City assure civil rights protections. It transpires that those most committed to police reform come from the victim class, which tends to be those the author identifies as increasingly stuck at the bottom of economic opportunity.
We should keep citizen volunteers happy in their jobs if we are to find a more just society.