Portland's Office of Equity Held Three Lunch Meetings for City Employees to Talk About Ferguson

Video shows workers brainstorming police reforms.

Marches against police violence reached their highest pitch last month, as demonstrators blocked downtown Portland streets to protest the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Protesters demanded wide-ranging reforms of the Portland Police Bureau.

It turns out Portland city employees were having their own discussions about making changes after Ferguson—conversations held at three lunch meetings hosted by the city's Office of Equity and Human Rights.

Equity officials will present the recommendations from those December meetings to Portland City Council this Wednesday, Jan. 28.

"By and large," city equity director Dante James writes in a memo to City Council, "attendees were not the people out protesting, but are your employees who felt the need to be able to speak, or just be in the presence of the conversation."

The suggestions mostly center on reforms at the police bureau.

Many of the ideas are vague—better training for officers, changing cop culture so officers will hold each other accountable, and interacting more with minority communities. (New Police Chief Larry O'Dea has pledged such "community policing" will be a top priority.)

A few suggestions are more specific, including offering incentives to persuade more officers to live in the city instead of surrounding suburbs.

Mayor Charlie Hales' efforts to boost equity in the police bureau drew controversy last year when he and several PPB command staff attended a $56,000 training session called "White Men as Full Diversity Partners."

The cost of the three lunch meetings to talk about Ferguson? Nothing, James tells City Council.

The Office of Equity and Human Rights has produced a video summarizing the meetings, held Dec. 3, Dec. 10 and Jan. 7. Watch it here: