The Activists and the Bureaucrats (Part I)
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article mis-attributed a quote regarding the authority of the committee to Kaz Zaidi. We have made a correction and apologize for the mistake.
For the first time since “The Uprising” over police violence began, Eugene’s activists and local officials gathered together to create a plan for reforming police policy in the city.
On the night of Sept. 30, exactly one week after Kentucky’s Attorney General declined to charge the officers who shot Breonna Taylor with homicide, the 30 members of the “Police Police Ad Hoc Council Committee” met via Zoom.
The Committee, which was formed by the Eugene City Council earlier this year, is tasked with crafting a series of recommendations for the city’s police policy.
But widespread public outcry over police violence and overreach throughout the summer led the council to include several local activist groups and nonprofits on the committee. This, as Mayor Lucy Vinis stated in her opening remarks, was done in order to include “minority and historically marginalized groups” in the process of police reform. Other members of the city’s government echoed those sentiments.
“Our voices have not always been heard in matters of police recruiting, training, and tactics,” Councilor Greg Evans said. “George Floyd was not the first person to experience police overzealousness–police brutality.”
Politicians like Councilor Evans, Mayor Vinis, and Eugene City Manager Sarah Medary all acknowledged the gravity of the moment and stressed the importance of this committee’s future work, but they also did not make any specific mention of the Eugene Police Department’s own violent actions in recent history. Nearly an hour passed before anyone invoked the names of Eliborio Rodrigues, Jr. and Charlie Landeros as examples of the EPD’s own misconduct.
Once the politicians had their say, the committee made a round of introductions, giving all the participants a chance to say hello and get to know each other a little better. Though Eugene has had its own ongoing protests and demonstrations against police brutality, it appeared that many of the activists and community organizers were meeting one another for the first time.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the groups involved with the committee:
A “youth-informed community movement” that works with at-risk youth in Eugene and Springfield to “keep kids in school and off the streets.”
Their name comes from the theory that kids who spend more than 14 days on the streets are far more likely to become chronically homeless. Their Rapid Access Network partners include the Eugene and Springfield Police Departments, and their Core Leadership Team includes former Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz. They’re represented on the committee by Tauna Nelson.
“I want to share the voice of young people,” Nelson said in the meeting. “And my hope is that we aren’t afraid to hear them.”
There’s not much of an internet presence for this group beyond an old website, a Facebook page, and a handful of articles that note their response to vandalism targeting Asian-owned businesses in Eugene back in 2016. They are represented on the committee by David Yuen Tam, who did not attend the first meeting for personal reasons.
APICAT did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment regarding their involvement ahead of this story’s publication.
As a self-identified “Black Lives Matter protest group,” Black Unity has risen to the forefront of street activism in Eugene. Their local activism arose from the early days of “The Uprising,” and they’ve survived leadership changes, a series of brutal arrests and assaults, constant harassment by right-wing militia members, and ideological challenges from the left to become the most visible and consistent presence on the streets of Eugene. Outside of the Zoom meeting, their comrades were in the middle of leading a protest in Springfield.
They’re represented on the committee by Midas Well and Dee Dent, who have been on the streets calling for the abolition of the police since at least May.
“Even if nothing comes of this,” Dent said. “I do want to be more educated on police policy.”
A nationwide organization that seeks to advocate for members of the Black community that work in local, state, and federal government jobs. Founded in 1975 and incorporated as a non-profit in 1976, BIG has dozens of chapters from coast-to-coast, including one in Eugene.
They are represented on the committee by Quentin Reynolds, a local pastor and insurance agent, and Rick Hamilton, a career cop with over 34 years of combined experience as a trooper with the Oregon State Police and as a corrections officer at the Oregon State Penitentiary.
“I just want to make sure that I add my perspective as an officer,” Hamilton said. “I want trust, I want transparency, and I want communication.”
A Latinx advocacy group based in Eugene that was founded by Chicano students at Lane Community College and the University of Oregon in 1972. They primarily work as advocates for Latinx families and community members through outreach and social work–including mental health counseling, addiction counseling, and support for Latinx entrepreneurs.
Executive Director David Saez and immigration specialist Guadalupe Quinn are their two representatives on the committee.
“I want to see something transformative,” Saez said.
The CRB is the non-police agency in charge of overseeing the police investigation process in the hopes of increasing transparency in the police accountability process and community trust in law enforcement. It is comprised of seven citizens, each appointed by the city council to three year terms.
The CRB’s representatives on the committee are Lindsey Foltz, a former Human Rights Analyst for the city, and Rick Roseta, a long-time defense lawyer who started his career working on police misconduct cases.
Foltz noted that members of the CRB are the only committee members that have full access to records about each and every case of police misconduct in Eugene.
- Eugene Islamic Center
The city’s Muslim community is represented on the committee by Palestinian-born Ibrahim “Ib” Hamide, the founder and executive chef of Cafe Soriah and member of the Human Rights Commission.
In addition to being the mind behind one of the best restaurants in Eugene, Hamide has been celebrated locally for his work “peacefully educating” non-Muslims about the struggles his community faces, especially following a series of domestic terror attacks on mosques in the United States and New Zealand over the past few years.
“I just want to end the human rights abuses by those who are supposed to be protecting us,” Hamide said.
The Human Rights Commission is designed to ensure that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is enacted and followed within the city of Eugene.
In addition to Ib Hamide, two other members of the Eugene Human Rights Commission are also serving on the committee: Daniel Borson and Joel Iboa.
LULAC is a nationwide organization whose mission is to ”advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of the Hispanic population of the United States.” Formed in 1929, they are the oldest Hispanic civil rights organization in the US.
Their local chapter is represented on the committee by Dr. Betsy Davis, chairwoman of the Anti-Racial Profiling Committee for LULAC in Lane County.
“I’m looking for white privilege removal in police policy,” Davis said.
It’s the NAACP–what more do you need to know?
They’re represented by Joshua Purvis, who works on the organization’s legal redress committee, and Brian Michaels, a lawyer who specializes in police litigation.
The Police Commission is a 12-person public body that is responsible for advising the city council, the city manager, and the Chief of Police on police policy. The Commission is not, however, responsible for investigating the actions of individual police officers, nor does it have authority over enforcement of existing policies.
They’re represented by Silver Mogart and Masie Davis.
TransPonder is a grassroots nonprofit, founded and led by transgender individuals, that focuses on “support, resources, and education for the trans/gender diverse community and its allies.” In addition to their work with the trans and gender diverse communities, they’ve also made statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and have drawn attention to Oregon’s racist history with a social media campaign.
Their representatives on the committee are Marty Wilder and Emz Avalos, who noted that transgender people of color are among the most likely people to face violence from police forces.
In addition to these activist and nonprofit groups, the indigenous community was represented by Erika Lincango and Sandra Shotridge, who both offered powerful statements in support of Black lives while forcing the acknowledgement of centuries of oppression that has devastated indigenous communities.
“This is not a nation of immigrants,” Lincango said. “But a nation of settlers who colonized this land. To call [the United States] an immigrant nation is dangerous and disingenuous. We need to reframe the conversation around policing to acknowledge indigenous sovereignty over their lands.”
Mayor Vinis also appointed four additional members to the committee.
Those appointments are former Eugene and Springfield Police Officer and Oregon Liquor Control Commissioner Marvin Revoal; Leah Edelman of Temple Beth Israel and Prevention Lane; University of Oregon Ethnic Studies professor and traditional healer Dr. Alai Reyes-Santos; and Justin Meyers, a youth minister and a local member of the controversial pro-Black and anti-immigrant group American Descendants of Slaves.
The committee, which will meet ten times between now and their deadline of Jan. 31, is tasked with developing new policies and procedures for the EPD to follow. However, Kaz Zaidi, the city’s multicultural coordinator and a facilitator for the committee, noted in Wednesday’s meeting that nothing this committee comes up with is immediately enforceable.
“We can include something that makes it so the city has to follow up with the committee,” Zaidi said. But he also noted that their recommendations first have to be released to the public and eventually voted on by the city council or “other relevant authorities.”
As it stands, the committee has no policy-making power.
The committee will discuss several elements of police policy, including community representation and oversight, the independent investigation and prosecution of police misconduct, the militarization of police, use of force guidelines, broken windows policing, and the use of crowd control munitions.
Before the meeting ended, several members suggested additional topics be added, including review of chokehold policy, communication training, and de-escalation tactics. Others noted that there are already policies governing these tactics, they just aren’t followed or encouraged. Daniel Borson of the HRC wanted to address the infiltration of white supremacists into local police departments and investigate EPD’s recruiting process.
This broad series of subjects caused some committee members to express concern that they simply don’t have enough time.
“We can’t address everything,” Midas Well of Black Unity said. “And I fear that in trying, we will miss the ability to address anything.”
This is the first of a ten-part series on the City of Eugene’s Police Policy Ad Hoc Council Committee. Double Sided Media will continue to cover the committee’s discussions throughout the fall and winter, concluding with an analysis of any and all recommendations made by the committee to the City Council. The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 6.