Community members testified at the Eugene City Council meeting June 8 in favor of a range of policy changes to the Eugene Police Department and criticized the use of force against protesters at Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
Since May 29, daily protests against the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police have drawn thousands to the streets of Eugene.
During the weekend of May 29-31, the EPD used riot control weapons to disperse protesters. Demonstrators and a journalist were hit with tear gas and bean bag rounds.
At the meeting, Councilor Greg Evans read a 10-point letter suggesting reforms for EPD on behalf of the Black Professionals Association of Eugene prior to the public forum on June 8.
The demands include 12 hours of mandatory diversity training to be conducted by people of color and the demilitarization of police —”weapons, gasses, gear, combat training.”
The list requests that traffic stop and crime statistics include gender and race. It asks that police receive annual psychological evaluations and that officers are vetted more carefully, particularly when they switch departments.
The Black Professional’s Association suggests the police chief should not have control over the police union. They also recommend that the use of delayed response as a threat by the police union should be considered a crime because such delays endanger public safety.
Evans says officers who receive three formal complaints should be reevaluated. He also suggested the district attorney be held accountable for prosecuting officers who violate the code of conduct and public trust, and that the police chief should have mandatory quarterly debriefings with communities of color.
During the public forum on June 8, only a few of the people who spoke identified as being Black, Indigenous, people of color.
DJ and entrepreneur Dr. Silky J. Booker thanked Evans for sharing the Black Professional Association’s suggestions. “Thank you Councilor Evans for being a pillar for the black community,” he said.
“I have frights and fears that you will never have to face,” Booker told the councilors, who, with the exception of Evans, are all white. “A change must happen in order for our community, people of color, to matter.”
Henry Luvert, former president of the Eugene NAACP, echoed Evan’s request for increased communication between communities of color and the EPD.
“Most of the training the police department has is on how to kill, maim, detain and not communicate,” Luvert said.
“A lot of Eugene police come from areas that may not have a lot of people of color and all they know about us is the stereotypes they have been taught,” Luvert said. “If you don’t want what happened in Minnesota to happen here, we need to be able to know we can communicate.”
The EPD’s recent use of force on protesters and residents at nightime Black Lives Matter demonstrations sparked intense condemnation from residents.
Homeless advocate Reggie Hayley demanded the resignation of Police Chief Skinner and City Manager Pro Tem Sarah Medary. “As many of us in this community marched in the name of George Floyd—and all the others lost to police terror and white supremacy — we witnessed the city manager and police cooperate to silence protests and create a sense of fear,” Hayley said.
Medary issued the curfew orders that ran from the night of May 30 through the morning of June 1.
Matthew Yook, a former Eugene mayoral candidate, said he witnessed a police confrontation with protesters on the weekend of May 29 and called the police’s conduct “barbaric.” That was the weekend EPD used tear gas and bean bag rounds on protesters for breaking curfew.
Eugene resident Hallie Roberts testified in favor of a Change.org petition created June 7 calling for 30 percent of EPD funding to be redirected to CAHOOTS, an unarmed crisis intervention team that is a part of White Bird Clinic. As of this writing, 6,481 residents have signed the petition.
“I think the city should defund police by 30 percent and reallocate funds to CAHOOTS as the petition asks,” Roberts said.
“Instead of investing in police, the city of Eugene should invest in community services like mental health, services for the unhoused, public health care, non-carceral intervention programSet featured images and an expansion of the CAHOOTS program,” Holi Johannes said.
Eugene resident Clare Haley referenced a recent New York Times article that cites CAHOOTS as an alternative to policing. She said, “It’s time to give them funding that is congruent with their success and reputation.”
Megan Faulkner, resident of Eugene, identified herself as the daughter of a “good cop.” She listed things she had loved about her dad before saying, “None of that matters.” She said, “Police Chief Skinner may be a good cop, his officers may be good cops, but that means nothing within a system rooted in, and upheld, by institutional racism.”
Faulkner said, “I call on the city of Eugene to defund the police and divert funding towards public health and safety infrastructure.”
Theissen Freeds urged the City Council to defund and ultimately abolish the EPD.“I demand City Council commit to defunding and phasing out the Eugene Police Department, just like the Minneapolis City Council did this week,” Freeds said.
Freeds concluded his testimony by addressing councilors directly: “Something must be done immediately. Whether or not that necessitates us electing a new mayor and city council who are actually interested in keeping our community safe, is entirely up to you.”
Mayor Lucy Vinis asked the councilors if they wanted to comment on the issues brought up in the public forum and they declined. Vinis thanked residents for speaking but did not give comment.
Eugene City Council meetings are accessible through the city website every Monday at 7:30 PM. Spectators who would like to comment must sign up before 7:35 PM.