The recent protests against police brutality in the U.S. have brought tens of thousands to the streets across the country–but they've also brought out a lot of enlightening information about how cops do their jobs, what they can do better and how they respond to groups of armed counter-protesters versus unarmed protesters. A lot of scrutiny is being put on law enforcement, and what's been revealed from all that scrutiny is not comforting.
- Darris Hurst
While we gave kudos to the Bend and Redmond Police departments for proactively condemning the death of George Floyd, when activists asked the Prineville police to do the same, they declined, according to activists. (Prineville PD's chief and captain did not respond to our request for more information on that and other reports stemming from ongoing protests in Prineville.)
The Bend Police department's own 2019 Force Response Report shows that officers used force on Black men at a rate of 2.6%, and Black women at a rate of 1.3% in 2019, in a city with an overall Black population of .6%, according to 2019 U.S. Census information—meaning that force was used on Black men at a rate of more than four times higher than the overall Black population, and over two times higher on Black women than the overall Black population.
While arrests in any city inevitably include those who don't live in that city, a use-of-force rate of more than four times the local population is cause for concern. Some departments have cited a low Black population as reason not to do even more to train officers in racial bias, or to speak out against the disproportionate targeting of Black men. This is every department's problem, not just the ones in the big cities.
While every police and sheriff's department can and should be examining itself internally to do more, Bendites have a particularly advantageous opportunity this very week to effect change in the police force, from the top down. Police Chief Jim Porter, appointed as chief by City Manager Eric King in 2014, announced his retirement in January. The City of Bend narrowed its applicant pool to 10 people in May, and to five last week—bringing us to this moment, when there is so much scrutiny on policing, to some opportunities for the public to weigh in.
At this point in the selection process, all candidates are white males. Nowhere in the City of Bend's five-page Chief of Police job description is diversity and racial equity mentioned in any context, though "a culture of collaboration, teamwork, and inclusivity" is mentioned once in describing the ideal candidate. The candidate profile was created following a series of listening sessions in February, according to the City of Bend. In addition to a number of law enforcement-related hiring sites, the job was advertised on the Partners in Diversity site.
On Thursday, City Manager King is hosting a virtual community stakeholder town hall, an "opportunity for candidates to introduce themselves to community stakeholders and participate in a moderated question-and-answer forum," according to an email from the City. Members of the Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly, Allyship in Action, the Latino Community Association, Mecca Bend and other groups were invited to attend and ask questions.
According to the City, it will "post a captioned video recording of the virtual community stakeholder town hall on Friday, June 19, at www.bendoregon.gov/police-chief. That webpage will also host a candidate feedback survey. Community members are invited to view the town hall video and complete the feedback survey." It's also available in Spanish at www.bendoregon.gov/policia. Feedback is due by 5 pm on June 22.
Due to public pressure in the way of recent protests, we now know much more about how policing works both nationally and locally—and it's clear there's much work to be done. This is Bend's chance to ask meaningful questions, and ideally, to press the next chief to understand the intense road ahead to allow all community members to feel safe, protected, and free from disproportionate violence at the hands of police.