Neighbors convince police chief to reverse districting decision
Typically, when a city of Portland bureau makes a decision, neighbors affected have little influence regarding the decree.
It wasn't due to loud protests; it wasn't because neighbors filled the room at the meeting, but last week Portland Police Bureau Chief Rosie Sizer decided to cancel plans to shift the Madison South Neighborhood to the Northeast Precinct.
Here's the story: A few weeks ago, Chief Sizer appointed a committee to balance call loads within police precincts (major policing areas) and districts (neighborhood areas within precincts) to balance requests for service calls across the city.
At last week's meeting, Sizer asked Lynnae Berg, Portland Police Bureau's assistant chief, to lay out the 'hows and whys' about the city wanting to change districts - and the boundaries of the two precincts themselves. She recounted the number of calls in various districts. Citizens at the meeting said they understood, for the most part, the value of moving district loads to increase police response time.
Moving Madison South Neighborhood
to Northeast Precinct
Members of the Madison South neighborhood Association took exception, however, to their district, 920, being moved to Northeast Precinct.
'One of the challenges we all have in making recommendations,' said Berg, 'is the neighborhoods in 920 are very involved in community at policing in East Precinct. The change in precinct alignment, and some other relationships, is one of the challenges we talked about.'
The police brass were asked about response times if the changes were made to the precinct boundaries. The response: East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs aligns how officers are assigned to small sections within each precinct, called a district.
Berg asked for a show of hands of how many of those attending the meeting were from the Madison South Neighborhood. Almost all the hands in the room went up.
'This feels a little bit like being at the Iowa caucuses,' quipped Chief Sizer.
Neighbors learned the Northeast Precinct offices are located at Martin Luther King Boulevard at North Killingsworth Street. This raised questions about response times to District 920 - especially near shift-change.
Mr. Smith speaks
Dave Smith was recognized when he asked to make this statement, transcribed here in part:
'I'm a member of the Madison South Neighborhood Association. Like many of us I became involved in the neighborhood association because of my interest in the viability of my own immediate neighborhood.
'Many of us in Madison South have become involved with the Portland Police Bureau through our association with the officers and staff at East Precinct. We've not only worked to secure the safety and security of Madison South, we also extend ourselves to the greater community that comprises the precinct.
'Community policing entails more than the police being friendly to the community. I suggest that this is the interrelationship between the community and the police working together to ensure safe and viable neighborhoods.
'Madison South is a good example of that sought after relationship.
'There are two primary considerations to be evaluated. One is a simple and arbitrary geographical boundary. The other is the personal, relational community-oriented one that is community policing in action.
'I would challenge you to make an exception to your proposed boundary redistricting, and leave Madison South Neighborhood in East Precinct.'
Asking for the chief's indulgence, we requested that Madison South neighbors, by a simple show of hands, indicate their support for David Smith's statement. All hands went up.
Chief Sizer asked, 'Are these relationships non-transferable [to Northeast Precinct]?'
Around the room several Madison neighbors said their feelings about community policing were based upon the good relationships they've developed with the officers and leadership of East Precinct.
Takes decisive action
Before the meeting ended, Chief Sizer came to a decision, stating, 'Members of the Madison South community have developed strong ties with the officers and command staff at East Precinct. Their reasons for remaining in East Precinct were compelling.'