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New Ally for Change in Police Culture

Nonpartisan League of Women Voters takes stand

Portland Police headquarters, downtown. (Photo by M. O. Stevens/Wikipedia Commons)

Changing the culture of the Portland Police Bureau must be a key goal of bureau leadership, according to a new advocacy position just released by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Portland.

The League’s membership issued a report Tuesday that concluded that, “PPB must end practices that systematically place police in opposition to or in domination of the public, or that treat community members as enemies.”

The report, coming after a year-long study of Portland police oversight and accountability, calls for added accountability for police officers who violate community standards and police bureau policies and directives; a reduction in the use of force; fair, equitable, and respectful treatment of community members; and a reduction of bias-based policing with a goal of eliminating it.

"I am very proud that The League of Women Voters of Portland has produced a deeply researched and timely position on police accountability. Addressing the issues facing many U.S. cities, it provides strong recommendations for how Portland can achieve a safe, just and equitable public safety system," said Debbie Kaye, president of the League.

The organization said it enlisted an all-volunteer 22-member committee to study police oversight and accountability shortly before George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis last year. The committee reported that it reviewed 55 source documents and interviewed 22 key stakeholders, including police leadership, city council members, state legislators and community advocates.

The resulting 64-page study report explained Portland’s history of policing, the current process of overseeing its police force, instances of inappropriate use of force by PPB officers over the past 20 years, and progress made so far on improving Portland’s police oversight and accountability system.

The new League report calls for a reduction in use of force through de-escalation and for alternatives to armed police, such as using unarmed, appropriately trained civilian employees to respond to certain calls. There is also a call for enhanced transparency in the scope and timeliness of releasing police records, as well as for strengthening civilian oversight and community involvement.

The League is also supporting giving authority to oversight groups to conduct independent investigations of police misconduct and to recommend discipline. For more details, visit the Portland League of Women Voters website at

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