Police Accountability

by Josh Schlossberg

In 2006 and again in 2008 the majority of Eugene voters demonstrated their support for a strong independent police auditor and citizen review board to oversee the actions of Eugene police. Any efforts to prevent or delay the empowerment and full-functionality of the police auditor go directly against the will of 65% of Eugene voters. It is important to remember that a compromise between oversight supporters and opponents was already made when the auditor position was given weaker powers than would’ve been ideal for a city with Eugene’s history of police misconduct.

While many police officers are hard working, reasonable and rational people who do their job with honor and integrity, they are not perfect. Sometimes officers make mistakes that harm people, or less often, deliberately break codes of ethics or even laws while on the job.

The abuse of police power is well documented in the US, resulting in some form of police oversight model being put into place in many other cities. Opposition to police oversight is not unique to Eugene, as many other US cities have gone through similar resistance during initial implementation of oversight. Once obstacles to implementation of oversight are cleared and the position becomes fully operational, a community’s trust in its police force can finally start to be rebuilt.

It is also worth considering what the root of opposition to police oversight truly consists of: Is it simply a knee-jerk reaction by police who resent the meddling of civilians in police business? Or does our entire system of governance somehow count on police officers frightening citizens into passiveness through blatant and unjustified displays of force?