Saturday, September 19, 2020

City Council, September 21st - Police Reform

Council convenes on Monday for a Work Session on Police Reform, and it looks perhaps a little restricted, addressing part of the question, about "non-criminal" calls, but totally eliding questions about racial bias, about white supremacy and fascism, and about overmilitarized policing. Hopefully there will be more on those questions later.

Two visions of policing
Front page, Register-Guard, July 18th

Still, even with this more narrow set of questions, it looks on the surface like there is space for a CAHOOTS style program and for other non-armed response to non-criminal calls. So we may see some incremental improvement, if not full reform.

The School Resource Officer program is sure to be a central topic as well as the way we police unhoused people camping and loitering.

It will be interesting to see what informed critics of the Police have to say.

From the Staff Report:

The Salem Police Department is a full-service organization responsible for the safety and well-being of the entire community. The police department responds to a wide variety of community issues, including neighborhood nuisances, traffic enforcement, traffic accidents, welfare checks, suspicious activity, community events and criminal activity.

This work session is intended to discuss how we respond to non-criminal types of calls, options that would be advantageous for this community to have, and the resources necessary for that to occur.

In recent years, responses to calls commonly considered non-criminal in nature have increased dramatically. These include responding to people experiencing emotional distress, people unable to care for themselves due to drug or alcohol use or addiction, and individuals who, for a variety of reasons, have found themselves unsheltered and may be causing disruption or safety concerns as they attempt to find places to stay for a night. As these calls increase, less time is available to officers to establish a presence in neighborhoods and to address criminal activity.

When a community member calls for help, we respond. Sometimes we are the only organization available to respond to many of the non-criminal issues. In other communities, community service agencies may also respond in partnership with or as an alternative to law enforcement. In Salem, our partners do not have the capacity to respond as an alternative to a police response because of the volume of calls.

100 years ago, the Police used "disorderly conduct" charges against some dancing, and if Prohibition was the main driver, race was often also subtext.

September 14th, 1920
At NPR, critic Ann Powers said
The shimmy took America by storm in the 1910s and 1920s, helping to turn the staid choreography of ballroom traditions into something sexier and more vital. As historians like Rebecca A. Bryant have documented, the shimmy was an early example of white performers (most famously in this case, Mae West) claiming an African-American performance style without obviously parodying it, as they did in minstrelsy.

This should remind us that policing and our definitions of crime always exist in history and respond to that history and to changing culture. What we do now doesn't have to be what we do in the future.


Jim Scheppke said...

This portion of the staff report that you quote sounds like an argument for maintaining the status quo. To assert that no other organizations have the "capacity" to respond to non-criminal calls, therefore we will have to continue to do it, kind of ends the conversation. In Eugene, at least part of the budget for CAHOOTS, I understand, comes from the EPD. The idea is that CAHOOTS can respond more effectively and at lower cost than the EPD. In Salem we spend one out of every three General Fund dollars on the SPD. That's $48.9 million in FY 20-21. If some of that money could be redirected to a service that would perform more effectively and at lower cost, why not consider it?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here is a timely piece, just published, at the New York Review of Books, "In Place of Police: The Oregon Experiment."

Sarah Owens said...

Be good to have the data about the # of calls. Last September, the Good Neighbor Partnership was wanting to know how many "non-criminal" calls there were, daily, on average, and no one knew. Ashley Hamilton told the group she didn't think The ARCHES Project could agree to be "on call" for downtown without knowing how many calls there might be.

Be Bold Street Ministries was on call, at least before the pandemic, with a number of downtown businesses who would rather not call the police. Be Bold has relationships with most of the ppl living on the streets and with a lot of downtown businesses. More info about this problem at the GNP site.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

CANDO has further comments on the popularity of the CAHOOTS template and notes on a mismatch between what Police are asking for and what Council seems to think would be most helpful:

"Everyone loves CAHOOTS these days. In August, Senator Wyden [even] introduced a bill for a "CAHOOTS Act"....

Look. No one disputes that, all things being equal, this community would benefit from having non-police, mobile crisis response capacity during off-hours, but police are saying (as clearly as they can) that, from their viewpoint, the primary need is for an appropriate place for them -- or whomever -- to take vulnerable people with low-level needs during the off hours. Councilor Nordyke seems to think an hour in the back of a non-police van will suffice for a lot of people, but police obviously disagree....

Some cling to the fantasy that a sobering center is a special place where life-changing decisions begin. As discussed in previous blog posts, there is simply no clinical evidence that spending a few intoxicated hours in a sobering center has that effect, particularly if one is chronically homeless....

For now, Council would do well to forget about the sobering center and CRU, and concentrate on expanding the hours of the navigation center/low barrier shelter that's in the 2020 Council policy agenda. That's what police are asking for, if Council would only listen.