Oregon police chief Brian Uhl met with the local activist group to hear feedback about how the department can do better Wednesday, Dec. 18, in what could be the first of many such meetings.
The Allies, according to the group’s Facebook page, work to ensure Oregon is welcoming to all people. Uhl emphasized that his intentions for the department are also in line with that objective.
He said he hopes to conduct additional meetings with other groups and members of the public.
“My focus at these initial meetings will be to listen to what the community members feel is important for me to know,” Uhl said in an email to the Observer dated Nov. 26.“I do not plan to offer suggestions at these initial meetings, but simply listen and learn from the community.”
The two parties sat in a circle inside the village hall, with the chief and Lt. Jennifer Pagenkopf on one side, and 12 Oregon Allies members on the other. Uhl kept a large notepad to outline objectives from the feedback the Allies provided him.
Themes included transparency, accountability and the treatment of village minorities. The Allies advocated for more OPD officers to examine their own biases and behavior patterns when interacting with minorities in Oregon and asked that the police department act as a community leader, as well.
Some members spoke to how imagery can play a huge role in implicit biases or unconscious beliefs about an individual or group of people. They asked Uhl to no longer use imagery regarding the Blue Lives Matter movement, to use the OPD Facebook page as a platform to start dialogues about underrepresented voices and to monitor his interactions with community members.
The Blue Lives Matter movement advocates for law enforcement officials who have faced scrutiny for the treatment of minorities. It started as a response to Black Lives Matter.
Allies members said the community looks to Uhl as a role model. He admitted he doesn’t always realize how much power he has in that way.
While the activists asked for more introspection from police officers, they asked the department to examine data on these matters.
To encourage transparency, the Allies asked for more data posting — relating to traffic stops, conduct toward minorities, etc. — on the police website, regular and ongoing community outreach meetings, up to date police commission agendas and meetings and budget postings.
By the end of the meeting, Uhl’s notepad was filled with ideas. Underlined were the words “Take ownership.”