Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Police, private security too close for comfort

The passage of an ordinance that allows the Portland Business Alliance to pay for three police officers in downtown sends a clear message to citizens that if you have enough money, you can buy special services from the Portland Police Bureau. The city argues that it’s not a new thing, and that the Housing Authority of Portland and Tri-met pay for officers, too. Well, like grandma says, "Just because everyone is jumping off a bridge, doesn’t mean you do, too."

Maybe we should just approach any number of multi-billion dollar industries and ask them to fund our public police force. Why not find a way to pay for the nearly 1,000 police officers entirely through private funding?

In the contract obtained by Street Roots between the Portland Patrol Inc., a private security force (that enforces public policy with no public directive or oversight and the Portland Business Alliance) it states: "This program is the only program in the nation where a private security and police work together on the same program, under the same roof… Their primary area of responsibility is assisting PPI officers with enforcement type activities." A loophole has been created. The PBA and the police have found a way to exploit that loophole. Private police take its directive from a private interest group, the PBA, and the police assist in enforcement activities.

Can we say taxation without representation? We think so. Street Roots fully supports the City of Portland’s goal to keep downtown safe. We respect the Portland Business Alliance, the City of Portland and groups like Street Roots working together to create a healthy downtown for all Portlanders. We do not respect a private security force that has handed out 1,100 constitutionally questionable park exclusions with absolutely no public directive or oversight. Street Roots has been told in our call for public oversight of private security that we are representing our constituents and that the city fully understands.

We believe we are representing Portland and have the opportunity to set a precedent not only in Portland, but around the country where we see policing being privatized at alarming rates. This is not about politics or grandstanding, it’s about doing what’s right for Portlanders and keeping our law enforcement transparent and accountable to all citizens.

In a town that has a hard time coming to terms with being able to disagree on one hand and work together on another without being paranoid and childish, and refusing to talk to one another, it’s time for Portland to grow up and be the city it claims to be. That means finding a way to create an atmosphere to create a vision that consists of representation by the people for the people.

Street Roots Editorial from August, 1, 2007

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