by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Portland, Ore., shelled out thousands of taxpayer dollars to a group of homeless people to have them evaluate the city’s new Police Accountability Commission after the city said that its “houseless community” should shape the way cops are disciplined.
Portland’s Police Accountability Commission hired a marketing firm in June and July to hold focus groups with participants from “communities that have been historically underrepresented … or who are vulnerable to police misconduct or discrimination,” according to a commission report. The city held one session at a local homeless shelter, which invited “twenty participants from the houseless community” to provide their “thoughts and ideas about the police” and the city’s disciplinary policies for law enforcement officers. Each participant received a $200 gift card, meaning the city paid at least $4,000 to hold the focus group at the homeless shelter.
The revelation provides a window into how Portland and other left-wing cities are working to make “systemic changes” to their police discipline policies in the wake of George Floyd’s death. At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, Portland voters approved a ballot measure to establish a new Police Accountability Commission, which has spent nearly two years designing a new system to replace the city’s police review board. The new board will have broad power to subpoena police records, investigate police conduct, and discipline officers.
Law enforcement veterans are barred from serving on the board, as are their immediate family members. The city is shelling out thousands of dollars, however, to receive feedback from law enforcement opponents. In addition to the homeless group, the city sought out focus group participants who have a “history of working with over-policed communities,” as well as “equity practitioners” and “anyone who has witnessed or experienced police misconduct.”