PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Two years into her tenure as Portland's Police Chief, Danielle Outlaw says the police bureau's relationship with the community is improving, but that there is still work to be done.
After taking over as chief, Outlaw quickly became acquainted with the challenges of policing in Portland.
"I came in here thinking, ok, here's my plan for the first 90 days and then I'll go back after 90 days and assess. All that was thrown out the window almost immediately," Outlaw said.
Since then, she's had to navigate the fraught relationship between the bureau and the community it's tasked to protect by feel.
"Given the history between the police department and the community over time, I've been told flat-out the police department's not going to automatically get the benefit of the doubt," Outlaw said.
During her time on the job, there has been continued criticism of the bureau's use of force during protests, which has resulted in lawsuits against the city.
Others have criticized officers' differing response to different groups of demonstrators.
"After August 4, 2018, you know that's when I started to hear a lot of, you know, you're siding with white nationalists and you turned your back to white nationalists and you used force on counter demonstrators," Outlaw said. "To see us facing one way and not facing another way, I can see how at a glance someone can walk away and say you completely ignored them and you're focusing on them. And I'm saying, no, we focus on behaviors."
Nkenge Harmon Johnson, President of the Urban League of Portland, remembers the image of officers with their back to demonstrators aligned with the far right.
"My first thoughts were, man, what a missed opportunity," Johnson said.
Johnson believes officers' actions on the streets often don't match up with the city's progressive reputation.
"Our community sees ourselves in one way, but our police bureau sees itself in a completely different way," Johnson said.
As chief, Outlaw has also faced the challenge of building or rebuilding trust among communities of color.
When she took over as chief, she mandated implicit bias training for all officers.
"Although I'm a black woman, for many I still represent the system that's still unjust to many," Outlaw said. "The good news is that I bring a perspective as a black woman. I've experienced what a lot of people are talking about. I know that systems are broken."
On the positive side, Outlaw said communication between the bureau and the community has improved.
Outlaw also points out that the bureau was recently found "largely in compliance" with its settlement with the Department of Justice over use of force.
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