Police violence against Black people, including children, reached a tipping point in 2020. People across the nation called on leaders to change the systems that killed Breonna Taylor and George Floyd among countless others.
Metro heard that call. Metro invests in jobs, housing, transportation and access to nature across greater Portland. Because of these investments, Metro has a role in creating safety, belonging and prosperity throughout the region. It is uniquely positioned to invest in ways that address root causes of harm. Metro can also reduce how often people interact with law enforcement at its sites.
Metro brought together a committee of employees from across the organization to investigate:
- Metro’s relationship with police
- how Metro uses security across its venues and destinations
- where and why it uses incarcerated labor
- how to reduce harm through investments in housing, transportation and access to nature.
This work is a direct response to demands for change and heightened calls for racial justice. Importantly, it moves forward Metro’s commitments in the Strategic Plan to Advance Racial Equity. The project also gives Metro an opportunity to take responsibility for its role in public safety systems, and for the past and present harms they cause to Black people, Indigenous people and other marginalized communities.
The committee is working in four phases.
Phase 1: Committee members spent several months in 2021 learning about:
- the history of jail and prison systems
- the disparities and poverty those systems create
- the various movements that continue to call for change.
Phase 2: The committee examined Metro's relationship with the police. It assessed where, how and why Metro uses security and incarcerated labor. It also documented ways to support community safety without security and policing.
Phase 3: Committee members developed values to guide their work. They also developed a vision and a decision-making framework to set the path for change. The Metro Council adopted the Vision for Justice and Belonging in June 2022.
Phase 4: Several Metro departments and all venues, including the Oregon Zoo, are identifying actions to take over the short-, mid- and long-term. These actions would align Metro with the project values and vision. Their action plans will also assign responsibilities and set timelines to complete the work.
The departments involved in this work are parks and nature, planning and development, waste prevention and environmental services, and campus operations for the Metro Regional Center.
Partners and community members will continue to offer Metro staff and the Metro Council feedback and guidance along the way. Those partners include Reimagine Oregon and Metro’s Committee on Racial Equity.