CAUTION: Do not hold private Community Oversight Board retreat
We are troubled to learn that the Community Oversight Advisory Board is planning a two-day retreat in January that is intended to proceed with at least the first day closed to the public. While we understand that there are issues of group dynamics to work through, the entire point of including a community body into what otherwise would be the function of a "Court Monitor" is to increase transparency and welcome public participation in the transformation of our Police Bureau.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 28 Dec 2015 16:48:15
From: Portland Copwatch < email@example.com>
To: Ellen Osoinach < Ellen.Osoinach@portlandoregon.gov>,
Judy Prosper < Judy.Prosper@portlandoregon.gov>
Cc: Dennis Rosenbaum < firstname.lastname@example.org>,
COCL Kathleen Saadat < email@example.com>,
US Dept of Justice -- Adrian Brown < firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Bill Williams < Bill.Williams@usdoj.gov>,
Brian Buehler < email@example.com>,
Jared Hager < firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Community Oversight Advisory Board-Mandi Hood
< email@example.com>, Jonas Geissler < Jonas.Geissler@usdoj.gov>,
News Media < firstname.lastname@example.org>,
AMA Coalition for Justice and Police Reform < email@example.com>,
Portland City Council -- Commissioner Amanda Fritz
Commissioner Dan Saltzman < firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Commissioner Nick Fish < Nick@portlandoregon.gov>,
Commissioner Steve Novick < email@example.com>,
Mayor Charlie Hales < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: CAUTION: Do not hold private Community Oversight Board retreat
(a project of Peace and Justice Works)
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065 (office)
(503) 321-5120 (incident report line)
To: City Attorneys Judy Prosper and Ellen Osoinach, the COCL team, US Department of Justice and members of the Community Oversight Advisory Board:
We are troubled to learn that the Community Oversight Advisory Board is planning a two-day retreat in January that is intended to proceed with at least the first day closed to the public. While we understand that there are issues of group dynamics to work through, the entire point of including a community body into what otherwise would be the function of a "Court Monitor" is to increase transparency and welcome public participation in the transformation of our Police Bureau. The fact that so much fuss has been made about members of COAB communicating via email as possible violations of Oregon's Public Meetings law makes it seem hypocritical and underhanded to be planning for a good portion of the COAB retreat to be held out of the public eye.
One of the issues the City sometimes raises is whether or not there is a quorum of COAB members at a meeting or event. It is clear that it's intended for a quorum of COAB members to attend the retreat.
Having seen the COAB process, we are convinced that no matter how well facilitated, the no portion of the retreat can be regarded as exclusively limited to "interpersonal" work, and experience tells us that COAB business will be discussed. A similar dynamic around interpersonal relations and business is true of City Council, which works very hard to be sure no more than two members are in one place, even in social occasions, to avoid violating this provision of the Public Meetings law.
Based on this reasoning, we contend that the public must be allowed at the COAB retreat, if only as observers, though we encourage COAB to take public comment before wrapping up each day.
We are watching as the city seems to shift its rationales for how processes work when certain parties are involved or in charge, and how these rules seem to change based on arbitrary criteria. We've already seen the COAB trying to enact its very clear directives from the Settlement Agreement to "independently assess" the implementation of reforms and recommend change, yet the DOJ recommends that the Parties respond with a "thanks for your input, but we don't have to tell you why we reject your recommendations."
Of course, we can understand why the COCL-COAB would like some privacy when they engage in sensitive discussions, such as discussing their problems, disappointments and frustrations. But all of these feelings have arisen within the context of discussing policy; they are about the substance of the Agreement and not mere personality conflicts. If the COAB were not a group selected to reflect community concerns in a federal lawsuit about police misconduct and were rather a support group or a country club, they could hold an "interpersonal" retreat. The recurring issue that is being overlooked is that the DOJ came to fix an institutional problem, and that COAB's key role is to look at these institutional problems. Group cohesion, even among COAB's police advisory members, is important to the process, but can't be considered or built separately from the substantive business of COAB.
We know that in the past when City Council held their own retreats to strengthen their cohesion, they tried holding them at locations where it was difficult / awkward for the TV stations to set up their cameras and lighting. Nonetheless, media were invited to attend and reported on these events.
Also, the Citizen Review Committee holds a retreat every two years or so, and has consistently had the retreats open to the public for observation, including their preliminary "getting to know you" sessions. If the City believes any such session is covered by the state law allowing "Executive Session," they still have to allow media to attend so that they can report on-- and call out the "public officials" about-- any business done in such sessions which are not protected by the law.
In short, we demand that there be full public access to the upcoming planned retreat of the COAB. This is the only way to keep this process from further deteriorating the trust of the very community it was set up to engage. Or perhaps we should say, "Community Engagement and Outreach Plan Principle #1: Don't hold public meetings in private."
--dan handelman, trudy cooper
and other members of Portland Copwatch
PS We are leaving behind other questions best answered elsewhere, such as, are the Police advisory members being paid for their time while the community members volunteer, and whether the agenda will include examining the power dynamic between officers and civilians to demonstrate that officers' claims of feeling ostracized or alienated are inconsequential and petty in the bigger picture.
cc: AMA Coalition for Justice and Police Reform
Portland City Council
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