Portland African American Leadership Forum and Unite Oregon Statement on Portland Police Chief Jami Resch's Resignation

Portland African American Leadership Forum and Unite Oregon Statement on Chief Jami Resch's Resignation
Rearranging the Deck Chairs Won't Keep the Ship Afloat

PORTLAND, Ore. — Today, Portland Police Chief Jami Resch announced her resignation as Police Chief in favor of Chuck Lovell after nearly two weeks of grassroots protest and brutal police repression of those protests. City leaders such as Mayor Ted Wheeler are hailing this change in leadership as a momentous occasion for police accountability in Portland.

We are not fooled.

It does not matter who serves as Chief of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), because police are the problem. The relentless violence that Portland Police have inflicted on Black Portlanders since this city was founded cannot be wished away with a staffing change, because that violence is built into the concept of policing itself. We reject the Mayor's attempt to pat himself on the back because he signed some HR paperwork, especially as he offensively refers to prisoners of our racist system of carceral justice as "people living in the Justice Center." 

As we have heard clearly from grassroots Portlanders since the local and national uprisings began, as well as those who have led the way on abolition for decades, the time has come to defund, disarm, and dismantle the Portland Police Bureau. We will continue this fight until we have fully abolished the Bureau and the very concept of policing itself from this city.

We will not accept simply transferring the functions of police to private security programs like Clean and Safe. We will not accept a mere cosmetic change that reformulates policing by another name. We demand the full abolition of police and prisons.

If Mayor Wheeler and City leaders are looking to take immediate action on policing, we have already made a short-term set of demands that the City Council must agree to:

  • Immediately cut $50 million from the Portland Police Bureau Budget.
  • Defund Transit Police, SERT, and the Gun Violence Reduction Team, and fully implement the promised elimination of the School Resource Officer Program.
  • Divest City Portland Cannabis Tax funds from the PPB budget and invest them into reparations for those harmed by the War on Drugs, which disproportionately targeted BIPOC communities for activities that are now legal.
  • Reinvest resources into Black futures through a community-centered health and safety model that is developed in strong partnership with community partners.
  • Pledge that Portland will never again participate in the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
  • Ensure that all personnel at PPB are complying with Sanctuary policies and protecting immigrants & refugees from ICE.
  • Stop all sweeps of camps that shelter houseless people and the expansion of sit-lie regulations, and support a Right to Rest agenda that decriminalizes houselessness.
  • Stop the militarized response to protest. Stop using rubber bullets, teargas and flashbang grenades at protests.
  • End the City’s attempt to remove PPB from the DOJ Settlement and accept external oversight for decades of civil rights violations.
  • Establish open collective bargaining with police unions during the contract renegotiation, including community groups as a party to the negotiations. Limit collective bargaining negotiations to wage and salary related matters.
  • Give community oversight meaningful power in disciplinary actions and the dismissal of officers.
  • Adequately establish and fund citizen oversight, require police contact data to be collected correctly and reported to the Auditor’s office.

To be very clear with Mayor Wheeler and the Portland community: these demands our starting points for this conversation, not the end of it. Once City Council agrees to this moderate list of changes to Portland Police, we will move on to the longer-term work of abolishing police and prisons, and creating a Portland where Black Lives Matter.

Policing is and always has been a racist system. It is impossible to "reform" police and policing. We will not negotiate for incremental change, or to provide political cover to elected officials. We are in the fight for abolition until it's won.