Where is the Chief? — An Important Response

A commentary worth posting in response to my recent post “Where is Your Police Chief.”


“I would add the word ‘alone’ to your statement, ‘… outside efforts cannot and will not improve police.’”

cropped-Consult-Hardesty-Dk-300x386“We, at Consult Hardesty interpret ‘community-based policing’ to have – at its core – a key reform element of broader public influence. Portland, Oregon has all the features you above describe: a police community relations committee, a fifteen-year history of consultants reporting to City Council, and a DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice) Settlement Agreement to resolve illegal use of force. In all of these spheres of influence, police and civilian managers (the latter, actual defendants in the DOJ plea deal) are entirely too self-referential.

“The [Portland Police] Bureau determines who sits on the relations committee, training advisory council, etc. Prior to release of their report, police control who is to be notified of round-table discussion of consultants’ recommendations. In many ways police and local authority cultivate an insular environment. (Promoting a replacement Chief from within the ranks of a bureau deemed defective comes to mind.) We contend these long-term institutions have failed to change conduct (racism, failure to adhere to training and policy on de-escalation) because leadership is far too attuned to their own ‘high regard for what police must be and do in our society.’

“We have long promoted structural alliances with community resources. Calling upon local chapters of training and organizational development professional associations, to take a vital, training advisory role seems a no-brainer. We find disconnect between your goal of trust building and blanket assertion that outside influence upon police culture is unwarranted: we call for direct participation by community members in the design and roll-out of training. Should the citizen volunteers who so participate be drawn from populations of those long denied justice, should their influence be seen to take effect; we aver the community will see police responsiveness as indicators that community trust should be extended: policing has become responsive to societal expectations.

“’Policing needs men and women of passion throughout the ranks who are committed to, and have a heart for, the difficult road ahead …’ We aver that culture change becomes more likely when new recruits are assessed for reform tendencies, and then empowered with whistle-blower authority over the Old Boy network. We then offer a decades-long contract extended to the same individual, for delivery of pre-hire, psych evals and screening. The contract is perpetually re-extended by the Chief, with no contest for bid. Two recruits who brought cases against superior officers were very publicly hounded from the force.

“We are heartened by the prospect that reform is on the table, and that others consider what stymies police culture from adhering to their constitutional oath. We don’t expect culture change to be an example of ‘physician, heal thyself.’ We expect reform to come from broader cultural influence and interplay. We see as the challenge a police subculture too strongly attached to command and control decision-making. We assert dictatorial roles have not worked (our Training Unit is actually employed to contradict a Chief’s order of officer termination for cause).

“We assert there is a trust gap WITHIN police culture: that they now need to devolve authority to citizen-based oversight.

“By relying on the consent of the governed, the role of trusted public servant will be returned. What will it take for police managers to build trust in such ‘external’ leadership? Performance of cops’ public service is actually embedded in a mutually held social compact. Are The People, generally, to be feared, when in possession of direct means to provide guidance, assess for implementation and impart discipline when at variance?”

3 Comments

  1. It’s been said that some in Portland will never be satisfied by anything police do. That may be an exaggeration, but perhaps only a slight one.

    Here’s (http://consulthardesty.com/status-report/fix) an August 2015 piece by Roger David Hardesty, the minority partner in Consult Hardesty. In it he criticizes the DOJ reform process, and refers to compliance officer Dennis Rosenbaum as a “collaborator” and the compliance firm Rosenbaum & Watson as “an ally in subverting police reform.” To those familiar with Rosenbaum and his work, such allegations are clearly unsupported by facts.

    If this essay is indicative of Hardesty’s overall perspective, it’ll be difficult for him to be taken seriously.

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  2. Thank you for elevating our comment to it’s own post, Chief, and thank you, Ashley for referring to our blog.

    Portland is perhaps unique among Obama-era Settlement Agreements with the DoJ Civil Rights Division. Consult Hardesty proposed community-based oversight of reform, with a funding stream that was not reliant on perpetrators in City governance. The DoJ negotiated for a Community Liaison, to facilitate a Community Oversight Advisory Board of citizen volunteers. A community-based selection committee vetted applicants and then forwarded two consultancies for the contract: the City skirted the Agreement to secure Rosenbaum & Watson’s Chicago-based team … and sacrificed any capacity-building that might have accrued in obtaining on-the-ground assistance from a group with local and historical relationships in seeking improved justice delivery. I contend Rosenbaum & Watson are oriented toward their standard contractual model of adhering to the interests of those who cut their checks. As evidence, they substituted a police forum for the initial, mandated Town Hall, and structured the event so dozens of police-chosen proponents went to the microphone following the Bureau’s laborious PowerPoint and even a musical video promoting officer friendly. It was embarrassing, particularly for heirs and survivors of unarmed people of color who had come to testify. It cost the Advisory Board immense amounts of good will, volunteers for subcommittee work have been hard to come by. Rosenbaum was prepared to preside over an event which never mentioned Findings that concluded officers had systematically failed to uphold their oaths to defend our Constitution. It was an attempted rush past truth, to instill reconciliation.

    Ours is not the only community organization to point out that Rosenbaum has never actually presided over culture changes sufficient to reform misconduct. [See the Mental Health Association of Portland http://www.mentalhealthportland.org/rosenbaum-watson-llp.%5D

    In our post ‘The Fix Comes In’ [http://consulthardesty.com/status-report/fix] we show the corrupting influence of such City contracting: without sending a contract out for rebid, and after the City felt secure that Rosenbaum & Watson would not actually engage in building the structural alliances with community resources I speak of above, annual payments went from $240,000 to $780,000, which does not include their $75,000 expenses to fly in and liaise with the community on a quarterly basis. If the original bid had been for $2,243,834 Portland might have achieved notoriety for its willingness to spend big and bring Constitutionally sound policing into fruition.

    Given what has been revealed as ongoing on Rosenbaum and Watson’s home turf of Chicago, and City leaders there colluding to shield police misconduct from public exposure, I doubt Portland City Council would have been able to politically muster for services out of that operating environment.

    Analyzing the trajectory of consent decrees and settlement agreements the DoJ has entered into over the past seven years, we do see improvement. Seattle and Newark in particular have community engagement features where consent of the governed is more likely to be obtained, where the public will be able to secure constitutional safeguards even after courts find compliance with presently identified shortcomings. We feel a responsibility, as others address illegal police conduct in their own communities, to offer them lessons learned … from a community who sought police reform before Ferguson showed the nation how prevalent structural police misconduct is. By inhibiting broad public involvement, we believe Rosenbaum and Watson actively insulate local government from the challenging work that institutional reform will require.

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