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October 19 Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Police Chief Rosie Sizer speaks before Portland City Council on Oct. 19, 2006. The Police Bureau, Oregon Action, and Northwest Constitutional Rights Center presented a report on racial profiling to the council.

As in so many American cities (and probably most large Canadian cities), inter-racial relations are regularly in the news in Portland. Yes, I said Portland, even though it is one of the whitest large cities in the United States. These days, it usually seems to involve the police. Sometimes the tensions are between the police and the public, othertimes within the bureau.

Portland's police chief used to be a black man named Derrick Foxworth. He was demoted this spring by Mayor Tom Potter (a white man, himself a former police chief) after Angela Oswalt, a white desk clerk in the bureau, filed a law suit and released numerous explicit emails sent to her by Foxworth while they were having an affair (years before he became chief). The investigation by the city cleared Foxworth on all but one relatively minor charge. Nevertheless, the mayor "
concluded that Chief Foxworth's ability to lead the organization effectively as chief has been damaged."

Now, Foxworth is suing the city, claiming that the real reason for his demotion was that he is African-American and had a relationship with a caucasian woman.

During Foxworth's tenure as police chief, a process was started in an attempt to improve relations between the police bureau and the African-American community in Portland. This was not the first attempt by any means, but its supporters are optimistic that this process will initiate real changes. The effort was a collaboration between the Police Bureau and several community groups. They met in a number of "community listening sessions," looked at police bureau statistics, discussed, and made several recommendations. The report was presented to city council on Oct. 19.

Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer (left) and Jo Ann Bowman of Oregan Action talk before presenting a report on racial profiling to Portland City Council.