Chief Sizer: Madison South to stay with East Precinct’s cops

It wasn’t due to loud protests; it wasn’t that they filled the room at the meeting – read why Portland’s top cop changed her mind about moving the ‘hood to NE Precinct …

Portland Police Bureau Assistant Chief Lynnae Berg explains why the Bureau wants to make changes to both district and precinct boundaries.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In an exclusive story we brought you last week – we told you how, under Portland Police Bureau Chief Rosie Sizer’s direction, a diverse group of internal and external stakeholders is convening to examine the district configurations of each precinct and make recommendations to more equitably balance the call load within the precincts.

Chief Sizer said she asked the committee to consider common-sense precinct boundary and district realignments, instead of making broad changes.

Bureau makes their case
At a December 15 meeting held at the Banfield Corporate Office, on NE 82nd Avenue of Roses, Sizer attended the meeting, but Portland Police Bureau’s assistant chief, Lynnae Berg, was the one who laid out the “how’s and why’s” about the city wanted to change districts [patrol areas within police precincts] – and the boundaries of two precincts themselves.

“We’re working to equalize the top call loads between 5 and 10% for each district within the precinct,” Berg explained.

Berg recounted the number of calls in various districts. Citizens at the meeting said they understood, for the most part, the value of moving district loads to increase police response time.

Moving Madison South Neighborhood to NE Precinct
Members of the Madison South neighborhood Association took exception, however, to their district, 920, being moved to Northeast Precinct.

“One of the challenges we all have in making recommendations,” said Berg, “is the neighborhoods in 920 are very involved in community at policing in East Precinct. The change in precinct alignment, and some other relationships, is one of the challenges we talked about.”

East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs says he appreciates all of the citizens who contribute to community policing.

Commendations and introductions
East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs spoke up: “Regardless of the outcome of this meeting tonight, community policing in East Precinct will continue to thrive. We appreciate all of our citizens who contribute so much to community policing here in outer East Portland.”

Chief Sizer then broke in, commenting, “Commander Crebs is a very capable commander. We all appreciate the work that he is doing there.”

Introducing the new NE Precinct Commander, James Ferraris, Sizer added, “He’s starting on Monday, so I thought it was important for him, because he will be potentially impacted by any precinct boundaries changes, to know who the new commander is, and be able to ask him questions.”

Ferraris spoke up, saying, “I know this is a real struggle for people to consider change. I grew up in East Portland, my mother lives here.”

To the many Madison South neighbors present, he added, “If we make these boundary changes, you will be welcomed in Northeast precinct. I will use Mike Crebs as a role model to develop the same partnerships with you that he has in East Precinct. Our doors are open to you.”

Questions and nose counts
The police brass was asked about changes in response times if the changes were made to the precinct boundaries.  The response: Commander Crebs aligns how officers are assigned to small sections within each precinct, called a district.

Assistant Chief Berg asked for a show of hands of how many of those attending the meeting were from the Madison South Neighborhood.  Almost all the hands in the room and went up.  When she asked how many of those in the room were from the Hollywood neighborhood, there was no response.

“This feels a little bit like being at the Iowa caucuses,” quipped Chief Sizer.

Neighbors learned the Northeast Precinct offices are located at Martin Luther King Boulevard at North Killingsworth Street. This raised questions about response times to District 920 – especially near shift-change.

Chief Sizer commented that when call loads are equalized and go down in any given district, the opportunity for the officers to self-initiate problem-solving goes up.  “This is why were working to equalize the call load within our districts.”

East Precinct Block Captain chair Dave Smith, also a Madison South Neighborhood resident, eloquently states why residents in their area feels strongly tied to East Precinct.

Mr. Smith speaks for neighbors
Dave Smith was recognized when he asked to make this statement:

“I’m a member of the Madison South Neighborhood Association.  Like many of us I became involved in the neighborhood association because of my interest in the viability of my own immediate neighborhood.

“Many of us in Madison South have become involved with the Portland Police Bureau through our association with the officers and staff at East Precinct.  We’ve not only worked to secure the safety and security of Madison South, we also extend ourselves to the greater community that comprises the precinct.

“Our neighbors are volunteers for the foot patrol, block watch, apartment watch, and the commander’s community advisory committee.  And we have a block captain coordinator, community advocates who worked to improve the lives of East precinct citizens through education, and exposure to the positive values of the Portland Police Bureau.

“Community policing is an important philosophy for the Bureau.  Community policing entails more than the police being friendly to the community.  I would suggest that the concept of community policing is the interrelationship between the community and the police working together to ensure safe and viable neighborhoods.

“Madison South is a good example of that sought after relationship.

“We and the officers of East Precinct are authentic members of the same community.  You will have to decide how to best read district the Portland Police Bureau.

“There are two primary considerations to be evaluated. One is a simple and arbitrary geographical boundary. The other is the personal, relational community oriented one, that is community policing in action.

“I would challenge you to make an exception to your proposed boundary redistricting, and leave Madison South Neighborhood in East Precinct.”

Asking for the Chief’s indulgence, East PDX News requested to see how many Madison South neighbors, by a simple show of hands, supported Smith’s statement.  All hands went up.

Portland Police Bureau Assistant Chief Lynnae Berg, Chief Rosie Sizer, East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs and incomming NE Precinct Commander James Ferraris listen as Madison South neighbors advocate for staying within East Precinct.

Questions non-transferable relations
Chief Sizer asked, “Are these relationships non-transferable?”

Smith responded, “Close to four years ago, Commander Greg Hendricks asked me to coordinate the Block Captain program. When I started I had a pronounced sense of “us and them”.  Initially it was very frustrating to work with officers.”  Over time, he said, we broke down that barrier and earned their respect.  “I don’t know if I have the energy to start over.”

Smith concluded, “We have something unique with East Precinct.  I would hate to see this fall by the wayside.”

Around the room several Madison neighbors said their feelings about community policing were based upon the good relationships they’ve developed with the officers and leadership of East Precinct.

Before the meeting ended, Chief Sizer came to a decision, without feeling the need for an additional meeting in the area regarding the topic of moving Madison South to the Northeast Precinct.

Madison South Neighborhood chair, Ruth Hander, is pleased to hear their district will remain in East Precinct.

“Members of the Madison South community have developed strong ties with the officers and command staff at East Precinct.  Their reasons for remaining in East Precinct were compelling,” Sizer stated.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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