Union scolded for opposing group’s priorities
By Michael Leighton
The Portland NAACP is citing the Portland Police Association’s long history of opposing its police reforms and other basic changes in policing as reasons not to meet with the union.
The Portland NCAAP turns down a meeting with the police union leaders.
The local civil rights group issued a statement last week reporting that it was recently contacted by Portland Police Association union head Aaron Schmautz asking for a virtual or in-person get together to discuss the state of the community.
NAACP leaders rejected the overture.
“We remain steadfast in our goals to prioritize models of safety that center community wholeness, over aiding a union that has seemed to prioritize punishment of our community, the impunity of officers, and the growth of their department," a NAACP statement said.
NAACP leadership pointed out that in a state that holds a deep history of institutional violence towards Black residents, the community should consider the role of the Portland Police Association, the oldest functioning police union in the country, in ongoing outcomes that have been negative for Black and minority residents.
The follow statistics of impacts on Black residents were supplied as an example:
Oregon holds the fifth worst incarceration rate for Black people in the country, despite being only 2% Black. Black Portlanders make up nearly 20% of traffic stops, despite being about 6% of the city’s population. Of the more than 40 fatal shootings involving Portland police officers since 2003, a disproportionate number of those who have suffered are Black Portlanders.
NAACP leaders said none of the Portland police officers involved in shootings have been indicted. Of those officers that have been put on leave, often paid, almost all end up back on the force or transferring to other area departments. Black people make up about half of the PPB’s reported use of force incidents. Also, amid the urgent George Floyd uprising in Portland last year, Portland Police Bureau officers were tied to more than 6,000 documented uses of force, including the indiscriminate use of poisonous CS gas, more commonly referred to as tear gas.
“It is not lost on us that basic reform efforts have been railroaded by the union, whether it be a community-oversight board, dissolving problematic specialty units, or simply shifting money from their quarter-billion dollar budgets into non-law enforcement responses,” the Portland NAACP said.
“It is clear our demands are not the priority of the Portland Police Association. We want more than body cameras to be a first-person witness to ongoing injustice with impunity. We want investment in our communities. We want an end to qualified immunity.
“We want real community influence, not after the fact input, to police negotiations, police accountability, and police transparency. We do not see the Portland Police Association in sync with the vision and priorities of the NAACP Portland 1120-B Branch and do not see what a ‘conversation’ would accomplish at this time,” the statement said.
NAACP representatives said they will agree to a sit down with the union when the police officers begin “to actively act as vanguards of public safety rather than the guardians of the status quo.”