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City Club of Eugene: Alternatives to Policing: Reorienting the Scope of Law Enforcement

Program date: July 31, 2020

Air date: August 3, 2020

From the City Club of Eugene:

The death of George Floyd on May 25 set off a series of protests across the United States and around the world, prompting greater public attention to excessive use of police force, as well as concerns about police oversight and accountability. Several other deaths, primarily of Black Americans, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, have compounded and magnified calls for defunding or abolishing the police, in addition to other strategies for police reform.

Inspired by these events, local groups have organized marches and protests in Eugene. Newly formed groups—including Black Unity; Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Liberation Collective and Black Led Action Coalition (BLAC)—range in their specific political objectives, but all represent an emerging pool of young activists motivated primarily by the national Black Lives Matter movement.

Like more than 200 communities in the country, Eugene has established some independent oversight of local police through the creation of the Police Auditor’s Office and Civilian Review Board. In contrast to cities like Minneapolis, Louisville, and Brunswick, GA, with larger populations of Black citizens, Eugene is racially quite homogenous as a result of discriminatory policies and practices up to the recent past. More than 83% of the city’s (and almost 90% of Lane County’s) population is White, about 4% is Asian, and less than 2% is Black. The record shows the critical need for independent oversight, to align enforcement with the community’s requirement for impartial justice.

This two-part City Club program series will examine local law enforcement through the lens of recent events.

The first program, Accountability and Transparency in Local Law Enforcement, focused on our city’s current system of police oversight.  Police Auditor Mark Gissiner, Professor Michael Hames- García, and Black Unity activist Isiah Wagoner will describe how the system works.  They also highlighted potential deficits in that approach and identify opportunities for oversight reform.

The second program, Alternatives to Policing: Reorienting the Scope of Law Enforcement, will pick up where the first program leaves off.  Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner, local NAACP president Ibrahim Coulibaly, and CAHOOTS co-founder David Zeiss will discuss the scope of local law enforcement and how it has responded to trends in local poverty and public safety, including homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness.

This timely and urgent conversation will survey Eugene’s history of law enforcement in light of the larger issues around police accountability and reform. At the heart of these programs is a question:  How can we cultivate and enforce greater equity, justice, and public safety in our community, in light of where we’ve been and what direction we want to head?


Chris Skinner is Chief of Police for the City of Eugene. Before moving to Eugene, he was Chief of Police in Richland, WA.  He previously held positions with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office and the Hillsboro Police Department. He earned an MBA from George Fox University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Ibrahim Coulibaly is the president of the Eugene/Springfield NAACP. He also serves on the City of Eugene’s Human Rights Commission. He is now a Senior Civil Right Investigator with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. An immigrant from Burkina Faso, he has also been an Oregon health worker.

David Zeiss serves on the Board of Directors for CAHOOTS. He was actively involved in the program’s creation, negotiating operational elements with representatives of the City of Eugene’s Department of Public Safety. He subsequently served as the program’s coordinator from its inception in 1989 until he retired in 2014. He is a graduate of Reed College and the University of Oregon.

Copyright 2020, KLCC

Love Cross joined KLCC in 2017. She began her public radio career as a graduate student, serving as Morning Edition Host for Boise State Public Radio in the late 1990s. She earned her undergraduate degree in Rhetoric and Communication from University of California at Davis, and her Master’s Degree from Boise State University. In addition to her work in public radio, Love teaches college-level courses in Communication and Public Speaking.