A report released by the Portland Police Bureau found 71 percent of community members only trust the police somewhat, a little or not at all – and that lack of trust is much higher in communities of color.
The Portland Police Bureau's Strategic Insights Report is the first quantifiable examination of mistrust and skepticism toward the bureau since Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler hired Police Chief Danielle Outlaw to make good on his promise to reform the police bureau.
Yet the report shows the bureau has a lot of headway to make with the community – especially communities of color; 85 percent of community respondents from Black or African American communities only trust the police somewhat, a little or not at all.
That's compared to 77 percent in multi-ethnic communities and 75 percent in American Indian Communities. Forty five percent of American Indian communities don't trust the police at all.
"We aren't surprised by the survey's results," said Zakir Khan, board chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Oregon. Khan said the results are "wholly consistent" with CAIR-Oregon's own informal assessment of the bureau's response to hate crimes after the deadly MAX train stabbings in 2017.
Khan said CAIR-Oregon recommended improvements in training, cultural competency, interpersonal communication and changing the way the city responds to hate crimes.
"At some point, the gap between PPB and community needs to be bridged" he said.
"When that happens rests solely on PPB doing a very honest reflection of itself and how much they truly care about the people they serve. We are beyond the days of police dictating policy to community. Transparency and accountability now matter more than ever."
The bureau has been at the center of scrutiny in recent months, perhaps most acutely when Willamette Week and the Portland Mercury broke news of text messages between Lt. Jeff Niiya and Joey Gibson, the leader of the group Patriot Prayer.
The bureau scheduled a community listening session with the top echelons of the police bureau soon after, though it proved bureau leaders continue to struggle to overcome years of distrust and skepticism towards its officers.
"The Strategic Insights Report is not the Strategic Plan, but a tool to help guide us in the development of a plan," said Chief Danielle Outlaw in a statement. "Some of this information demonstrates to us that we need to do a better job communicating what we do and why we do it."
And while the bureau has come under scrutiny for a string of police shootings and use of force incidents in recent years, it also appears caught between another thread of public displeasure over its most basic duty: 79 percent of community members believe the bureau only sometimes, rarely or never does a good job at reducing or preventing crime in Portland.
The report also provides insight into pressures at the bureau. Seventy-five percent of sworn bureau staff feel that they have too much work to do, and over half of sworn PPB officers indicate that they are somewhat, to high degree or to a very high degree, burnt out, frustrated and emotionally exhausted by work.
The police bureau heard from 3,100 community respondents for its survey. It also spoke to 165 people in focus groups and to 120 people at public meetings.
It conducted focus groups with 65 sworn and professional staff and 35 one-on-one interviews.