Despite all the tensions between the police and so many citizens of Portland, The Portland Police Foundation decided it would be cool to host an invite-only, $1000 per head play date with whomever they deem desirable. It is impossible to comprehend how an organization that supports a police bureau and union that publicly wail about how badly we (the citizenry) misunderstand and misinterpret its motives could think this type of event is appropriate, or even useful.
Am I on board with PPB offering a look into their training and operations? Sure! It would be great for them to host regular tours and visits for people who want to understand how officers are trained, how policy is determined, what resources are available, and build relationships with the Bureau. It would provide more transparency, humanize both police officers and civilians, and maybe start to ease some of the tensions we’ve seen building over the last decade.
But an invite-only, $1000 per person ticket to exclusive police access?
The price alone is prohibitive for most people, and who knows how they’re going to select their “special” playdate invitees. Regardless, the event seems designed to give a select group of people privileged access, thereby removing even the facade of police neutrality in dealing with citizens. The fact that it’s hosted by the Foundation (and not the Bureau) is almost irrelevant, special access is special access. Wanting to re-open the community academy is an admirable goal, but they honestly couldn’t come up with a different fundraising idea?
In many organizations, the recent DOJ investigation (which found significant problems with a variety of bureau practices and policies) would have spurred initiatives designed to start rebuilding trust with the communities who have been most affected by police violence and brutality. Even when individual officers do good work, their efforts are undermined or overshadowed by a system of racist practices, excessive use of force, and seeming disregard for the welfare of black and brown communities.
An event that caters to the wealthy and offers privileged access not only deepens the divide and corrodes what little trust may remain, it feels like a giant “fuck you” to the rest of us. Oh, and before I forget, who’s paying for this exclusive fundraising romp through publicly-funded police time and equipment? Yes! Us – the taxpayers! I wonder how many other private foundations get the same benefit – a fully functioning public entity available for its personal fundraising use? That the Foundation would do something that seems so contrary to the best interests of PPB (and its public image) and the people who live in this city makes the dig even deeper.