After more than a week spent standing back while City Commissioner Dan Saltzman
and, more recently, City Commissioner Randy Leonard
addressed last month's fatal Portland police shooting of Aaron Campbell, Mayor Sam Adams
stepped forcefully into the debate this morning.
Hours before Rev. Jesse Jackson
brings the national spotlight to Portland tonight by speaking at a rally
, Adams made an unannounced visit to a news conference held by Police Chief Rosie Sizer
and Leslie Stevens
, head of the police Office of Accountability and Professional Standards.
Saying he's been asked to take a more active role on police matters (without saying who had asked him), Adams took the microphone for about 15 minutes to make a statement on the Jan. 29 shooting
and answer questions from reporters
Adams called the furor from African-American leaders over the shooting an "extraordinary opportunity" to recognize and address racial disparities in Portland, a city where blacks make up about 6 percent of the population and earn on average one-third of the overall median income.
"That response comes from a place of being part of a community that has always struggled," Adams said of anger over the shooting. "People are responding from a race-based perspective, and whether you agree or disagree, I don't intend to ignore that."
While Campbell was reported to be armed and suicidal, he was found to be unarmed after police shot him in the back. African-American leaders have rallied
and said their community can no longer trust the police.
"This is a challenge in almost every city," Adams said today. "That does not mean I am going to diminish (it) — in fact I have highlighted the need to provide more economic opportunities."
Adams placed himself in an awkward position when he made the unusual move of assigning the police bureau to Saltzman when Adams took over as mayor in January 2009. When the inevitable controversies over the cops arise, the question becomes how much responsibility Adams is prepared to shoulder, or whether he can simply leave Saltzman dangling in the spotlight.
Saltzman stood silently in the room during the news conference this morning while Adams took the floor, vowing to continue the city's efforts to fund services for the mentally ill, and to work on closing the gap between whites and minorities.
Adams said that he and Saltzman will meet with Jackson and religious leaders from the Albina Ministerial Alliance before Jackson's scheduled 6:30 p.m. rally in Northeast Portland's Maranatha Church of God
"I reached out to him because I feel like there's an opportunity," Adams said of Jackson. "He has a nationwide perspective."
Asked by a reporter what he thinks of Leonard's statement
targeting Sizer, Adams said he fully supports Sizer.
"The results of she and her team in many ways speaks for itself," Adams said. "But people have asked me to be more engaged in these issues, and I will."