Portland’s police chief wants a more diverse force. Here’s what it looks like now

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street, where we didn’t need an air quality alert as an excuse to stay inside where it’s cool.

What we’re talking about

Portland’s chief of police, Michael Sauschuck, said this afternoon that “less than 5 percent” of his officers are non-white.

That statistic is noteworthy because it adds a little more clarity to his recent comments at a Munjoy Hill church, where he told the hundreds of people who assembled in a show of peace after the recent horrific shootings that the city’s police force was not diverse enough.

“I need to have more officers of color at the Portland Police Department,” he said on Tuesday. “That needs to happen. We’re not where we need to be today in 2016.”

Today, the chief echoed that sentiment at a press conference held ahead of a Black Lives Matter rally scheduled for 6 p.m. in Lincoln Park, saying he’d like the department to better reflect Maine’s most diverse city, which was about 15 percent non-white in the 2010 census. But he said that his first priority was hiring the right people.

“The Portland Police Department seeks to mirror our community,” he said today. “But I also said I’m hiring the best human beings possible that is my primary goal, and I hope that we also mirror our community from a diversity standpoint.

“As you remember in the last couple years, we’ve had some firsts in this department; first, first Somali Muslim female in the state of Maine as a law enforcement officer,” he continued. “And they were hired solely because they were the best for the job.”

When BDN Portland reporter Jake Bleiberg asked him how diverse the force current is, Sauschuck said, “I’ve asked to get updated stats. It’s less than five percent [minority officers].”

ICYMI

For white allies of Black Lives Matter, good intentions aren’t enough — Alex Steed writes: “I know that every good intention in the world does not stop my presence from triggering a reminder that the same systems that disproportionately set me up for success — or at least do not actively try to wrest opportunity from me — do not extend to all.

“That is outside of my power, but at the very least I can know and acknowledge it and offer my support in a context that is most useful. Showing up at a rally is the bare minimum of human response and support I can offer. I don’t expect to be celebrated for it. The real power I have is to challenge the systems in which I am comfortable, from which I benefit disproportionately — and to do it because it is my moral obligation without the expectation of getting high-fived.”

Meet a First Friday Art Walk artist who hula hoops with fire — Troy Bennett interviewed Alexis Powers, who you may have seen spinning a flaming hula hoop at this month’s First Friday Art Walk. She gave a little insight into her art:

“With the performances, I’m trying to create these visual and fully-immersive images with the music, costume, makeup, lighting, choreography, that create a story/mood/experience for the audience,” she said. “The hard part has been training my body to do what I want it to do. I’m constantly trying to push myself into more difficult poses, work on flexibility and contortion and just make every show better than the last.”

Three experts explain why LePage’s stance on naloxone is wrong — Mike Shepherd follows up on Gov. LePage’s refusal to sign a letter with 46 other governors. One recent the governor’s office cited was that the pedge “encourages the use of Naloxone, which has not been proven to get drug addicts off deadly opiates.”

Mike writes: Across the board, there’s really no other objective way to describe his addiction stances than that: They’re based on bad information.
Don’t take it from me, just listen to three experts.
Mark Publicker, who was an addiction specialist at the now-shuttered Mercy Recovery Center in Portland, rhetorically asked if “the existence of triple bypass surgery” gives “overweight men the sense that they can eat french fries.”

“The way to help people get sober is to provide them with medication-based rehab, the very treatment that the [LePage] administration seeks to eliminate,” he said.

Gordon Smith, the executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association, called administration’s comments “harmful, for a host of reasons.”

And Kennebec County Sheriff Ryan Reardon said it’s clear that naloxone “was never and will never be a cure,” but his deputies have saved two people with it “and I hope that the persons saved overcome their addictions.”

“They are at least alive to try,” he said.

Maine has the money. It should send more of it to families on welfare — After a BDN investigation found the state had improperly redirected nearly $8 million in federal welfare funds meant for children and families to pay for services for elderly and disabled adults, the editorial board argues: “[L]ow-income parents, by and large, can be trusted to make good decisions for their families with additional resources. Given its $110 million unspent TANF balance, it’s clear what Maine — and the LePage administration — could do to actually help Maine kids overcome poverty.”

Big ideas

How Acadia National Park may adapt to changes in the future — Here’s the third installment of the BDN’s three-part series on Acadia, which focuses on where the park is headed: “In addition to planning for climate change and an unprecedented number of visitors, finding the finances to support the existing park is perhaps its most daunting challenge.

“Looking forward, alternative sources of funding and staffing, as well as new partnerships with local organizations, may be required to accomplish all the work deemed necessary to keep the park running smoothly.”

Don’t be afraid — After yesterday’s attack in Nice; which followed the shootings of police in Dallas, which followed the shootings of two black men by other police in different parts of the country; which followed the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, it’s easy to feel that the world is getting more dangerous.

But as this 2015 Atlantic article points out, historically, that’s not the case — not that that makes these kinds of horrors any easier to bear.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

As always, like BDN Portland on Facebook for more local coverage.

Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.