In the September 30, 2005, issue of NorthByNorthwest.org, Eugene city councilors Andrea Ortiz and Bonny Bettman write in a letter:
Dear Friends and Neighbors of Eugene,
As you read this letter our attention and resources are focused on the Gulf Coast and the hurricanes’ devastation. It is hard to ask you to consider anything else at this time, but a crucial local issues also needs your help.
In November you will be asked to vote to amend the Eugene City Charter so that present or future City Councils can institute an external police oversight system.
Both acute and chronic problems have plagued Eugene’s Police Department. Allegations of racial profiling have been ongoing. Recently, two officers were convicted after committing multiple crimes while on duty. Their criminal behavior persisted undetected for over six years.
Partially in response to these incidents, the Police Commission began to identify strategies to build trust by improving accountability and fairness for both the community and the Police Department. After more than a year of public outreach, research, and deliberation, the Police Commission recommended a plan for police oversight that combines an independent professional Police Auditor and a Civilian Review Board.
The Police Commission’s report says: “To ensure structural independence of the oversight system, the commission recommends that the auditor be hired and report to the City Council, and that the City Council, with community input, appoints the review board members.”
The Eugene City Charter needs to be amended to give Council permission to hire the External Police Auditor and to appoint members of the Civilian Review Board. This ensures that the Police Auditor is answerable to a different branch of government than the one being audited. This separation is essential to preserve our traditional democratic systems of “checks and balances.”
As the City Council appointees to the Police Commission, we have worked on this issue from the very beginning and throughout the development of Ballot Measure 20-106. We have joined with a coalition of individuals and community groups to help pass the External Police Review Ballot Measure.
Please join us in supporting the campaign to implement a truly independent and External Police Review system in our community. Ballots will be in the mail in less than six weeks––and there is a lot of work to left to inform the public. Please help us with a contribution (of time or money). And vote YES for External Police Review in November.