Another Brick in the Wall

Hard Stuff, Power/Privilege, Rants, Social Justice, Systems, Uncategorized

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.

police public comment-wqs

Tragedy as an Excuse

Power/Privilege, Social Justice, Systems, Uncategorized

I haven’t kept up with the story about the two murdered NY police officers, so I looked up the story on Wikipedia. I shouldn’t have. My fears have been realized – the shooting has derailed the conversation about police violence, the need for reform, and racism completely. The conversation is now about how the Brown/Garner protests caused this tragedy, and how if it weren’t for all the anti-police rhetoric, this never would have happened.

All of that, of course, is so much BS. It’s much easier to focus on the choices of a single person and claim that those horrid choices are the result of all this upheaval and turmoil. It’s true that he probably seized on the protests and all the anger and outrage as a way to express his own anger, outrage, and violent tendencies. But he already had a long-established pattern of violence – he wasn’t suddenly radicalized by civil rights protests. He had a serious set of baggage before the protests even began.

Right now, what I feel is a sense of mourning, the loss of an opportunity-in-the-making for us to discuss some incredibly difficult and complex and hurtful issues. This event, while tragic, now provides a way for one group to shift the conversation in another useless direction. The police and their unquestioning supporters are more defensive than ever, less open to discussion, more prone to attack, to vitriolic rhetoric, and to framing themselves as suffering victims and martyrs.

I had hoped that the events of Garner/Brown would at least result in keeping the conversation going – however ugly and uncomfortable it might be. Now, it isn’t only business as usual, it’s a case of the victims being required, again, to comfort and reassure their oppressors.