The Activists and Bureaucrats (Part III)

This is an ongoing story. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

Eugene’s Ad Hoc Committee on Police Policy met for the third time on Oct. 27 and finally began to make some progress toward policy recommendations for the city’s police department.

The committee–now formally abbreviated by the city as AHCPP–was off for three weeks as its members studied the various documents and policies regarding policing and oversight in the city, as well as the police union’s contract. Facilitators also put together a so-called “prioritization exercise” to help focus the committee members’ concerns on a handful of issues within the broader context of policing.

According to documents released by the city, committee members decided that the AHCPP’s top five priorities will be:

  • Limiting the use of force by EPD officers
  • Reforming the hiring and training practices of the EPD
  • Increasing community oversight
  • Expanding existing body camera policy
  • Implementing independent investigation and prosecution of police misconduct
A table showing the responses of members of the AHCPP regarding which specific EPD policies they would most like to address during the committee’s remaining time. 19 of the 30 members of the committee responded to the prioritization survey, though the responses were kept anonymous. (Screencap taken from city documents.)

These priorities were not independently determined by the members of the committee and, despite calls by some activists on the AHCPP, there was never an option for the committee to recommend defunding or abolishing the department. Instead, their options were derived from a broader list of policy platforms contained within Campaign Zero and former President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing

But Campaign Zero–a data-driven project launched by activists DeRay McKesson, Johnetta Elzie, Samuel Sinyangwe, and Brittney Packnett following the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, MO–has already amended its recommendations on body cameras and bias trainings after research found that they were rarely effective in preventing police violence and brutality. Campaign Zero is also the force behind the “8 Can’t Wait” initiative, a campaign to reform police use of force guidelines that was quickly panned by researchers and activists.

“While minimizing harm is well-intentioned, movements like this inevitably breed complacency,” Olivia Murray wrote earlier this year in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. “Police reform campaigns like 8 Can’t Wait offer a much easier—albeit less effective—alternative to the radical change proposed by police abolitionists.”

Campaign Zero took many of its recommendations from the final report released by the 21st Century Policing task force, an 11-member panel of community activists, high-ranking police officials, and academics also formed in the wake of the Ferguson Uprising. The report was praised and touted by local, state, and federal law enforcement officials upon its release in 2015, but has not yet been widely implemented or seen its guidelines closely followed. EPD Chief Chris Skinner is a big fan of the so-called pillars of 21st century policing, rarely missing an opportunity to mention the phrase in interviews

In short, this attempt at meaningful police reform in Eugene is following playbooks that have yet to produce meaningful reform. 

But the AHCPP is still far from making any recommendations to the Eugene City Council. In the month since it was convened for the first time, the biggest step the AHCPP has taken is creating a set of subcommittees to tackle their freshly prioritized issues. 

This has led some committee members to worry that they’ll need more time and testimony to do their work.

On Oct. 20, the Eugene Human Rights Commission passed a motion calling on the City Council to extend the AHCPP’s allotted time by three months. And the materials for the committee’s Oct. 27 meeting included a letter from Eugene/Springfield NAACP chapter President Ibrahim Coulibaly urging the AHCPP to consider testimony from citizens who have suffered at the hands of EPD officers.

“We find the voices of citizens to be a crucial factor in determining how to present changes in these procedures,” Coulibaly wrote. “We feel equally strongly that the citizen complainants be allowed to present their stories to each oversight committee in order to achieve more accurate results.”

This is the third 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 November 10, 2020.

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