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Portland City Council Begins Review Of Police Policies In Wake Of Protests

Caitlin Troutman
Maine Public
Protesters confront officers on the steps of the Portland Police Department May 31, 2020.

In a change of agenda Tuesday, a Portland City Council committee reviewed practices and policies of the city's Police Department, such as hiring, use-of-force training and how public complaints are handled.The Health and Human Services and Public Safety Committee review comes after a week of protests over police killings of unarmed black people, including George Floyd who died in Minneapolis while in police custody.

During a massive Black Lives Matter protest in Portland last Friday, a flyer circulated that listed a number of demands, including defunding police, and eliminating funding for police in schools.

The three committee members were joined by the other city councilors and Mayor Kate Snyder at the meeting, which lasted almost three hours.  Among the many questions for Police Chief Frank Clark were inquires about the role and training of school resource officers, how non-English speakers were read their Miranda rights before being interrogated, and Portland's use of riot gear.

Committee Chair Belinda Ray made it clear that the police budget was not on the agenda Tuesday, but she said the Finance Committee planned to give it a preliminary look next week. "We also are not talking specifically about the protests that have occurred," Ray said, "or police handling and interactions during the protests tonight."

Ray said she has received at least 1,500 emails and phone calls about the protests and police. She acknowledged intense public interest in the matter and said it will be the focus of a council workshop scheduled for June 22.  The police department is expected to present a report on a large protest that occurred June 1, which began peacefully but ended with 23 arrests.  

Plans are also being made for a public hearing on the issue. Some councilors have also called for an independent third party review.

Ed is a Maine native who spent his early childhood in Livermore Falls before moving to Farmington. He graduated from Mount Blue High School in 1970 before going to the University of Maine at Orono where he received his BA in speech in 1974 with a broadcast concentration. It was during that time that he first became involved with public broadcasting. He served as an intern for what was then called MPBN TV and also did volunteer work for MPBN Radio.