Police commission leadership will build on success, focus on training
MY VIEW • Commissioner sees hard work ahead to maintain livability in tough economic times
In January, I will take over the assignment of police commissioner from outgoing Mayor Tom Potter. It is an honor to accept this responsibility from Mayor-elect Sam Adams and one I will undertake with great care.
One of the most basic responsibilities of government is the safety and security of our community. In that regard, Portlanders are served well.
The Portland Police Bureau is comprised of dedicated public servants who put their lives on the line every day for the safety of our citizens and businesses. They care deeply for our community and it will be a priority of my administration to highlight the contributions these men and women make to ensure our city is the most livable in the country.
That said, with the current recession, it may become more difficult to maintain the level of livability we have come to expect. We will face new challenges that will require nimble and timely attention.
As police commissioner, I will expect our police to respond swiftly to hotspot issues while still ensuring members of the affected community are involved in that response. Accomplishing this within the context of city budget cuts certainly will pose a challenge and require creative thinking. Overall, it's my underlying philosophy to look critically at how we provide services while still bolstering the number of officers on the street.
I will bring to the role of police commissioner my ongoing dedication to addressing child abuse, domestic violence, gang violence and consumer fraud, as well as continuing to ensure the vitality of our neighborhoods. My concern is that, during tough economic times, the most vulnerable in our community will feel it first - as the incidence of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and gang activity increases.
Tackling these issues will certainly require a fully staffed police force, and one that receives proper training. One of my top priorities will be to see that the Portland Police Bureau has the necessary training facility it needs to make that a reality. With the system currently in place, some training has been canceled due to the lack of an adequate training facility. In light of what our city must be prepared for, this is unacceptable.
I also intend to incorporate some of the excellent assessment work on the bureau conducted by my colleague, city Commissioner Randy Leonard, in his recent public safety assessment.
Specifically, I will build on the success of the service coordination team pilot program at work now in downtown's Old Town neighborhood. This program has focused on arresting chronic drug and drug-related property crime offenders, then holding them in jail to provide much-needed services in order to end the cycle of addiction that drives their criminal behavior.
The results of the service coordination team pilot program speak for themselves: There has been a 71 percent reduction in the recidivism rate among the top 400 chronic offenders in downtown Portland since October of 2004. I will certainly look to expand this successful model to precincts that are experiencing increases in gang activity, prostitution and drug-related crimes.
Commissioner Leonard's assessment also provided valuable recommendations regarding staffing, namely to enact committees on labor and management and establish a comprehensive strategy to minimize unnecessary overtime expenditures, both of which I will look closely at.
As I transition to this new role, I want to state my complete confidence in those who serve in the Portland Police Bureau. It begins with the commendable leadership of Chief Rosie Sizer, but certainly doesn't end there. I look forward to working with her and her team to ensure the safety of our citizens and businesses.
Dan Saltzman is a Portland city commissioner serving his third term on City Council. He lives in Southwest Portland and next year will become only the third Portland Police commissioner who will serve while not holding the office as mayor.