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Portland Police Association Contract: What Did Portland Buy for $5 Million?
n our last issue, we reported that the Portland Police Association (PPA) had gone into a mediation session behind closed doors to finish negotiating their collective bargaining agreement with the City, after months of meetings that had been open to the public. What came out of the secret meetings is a lot less than what many in the community had been asking for, giving the PPA $5 million over a three year period (retroactively July 2010 to June 2013) in exchange for a begrudging acceptance of the current oversight system and the random drug testing of officers.
The PPA agreed to accept the Police Review Board (PRB) passed into law last March. The contract guarantees the scrutinized officer rights to present evidence to the board, have representation, and only be excluded from the meeting if other non-voting persons are also excluded. Remember the civilian involved (or his/her representative) can't attend these meetings at all.
The PPA also agreed to the changes made to the Independent Police Review Division (IPR) last year, but reserved the right to sue if officers are subpoenaed. This is either a sign of the PPA's inability to read--the IPR ordinance explicitly says their subpoena power is not for police officers being investigated --or it is deliberate misdirection from the fact that the contract was not amended to allow IPR to compel officer testimony. The current contract says that investigations have to be conducted by police in police facilities. At the February 2 Council hearing, Commissioner Randy Leonard asked IPR Assistant Director Constantin Severe whether the PPA has allowed IPR staff to ask questions directly to officers even though technically a police Internal Affairs (IA) detective has to ask them. Severe said IPR has been able to ask questions, and Leonard closed the book on it. Leonard seems to have forgotten the changes were made last year because the IPR was shut out of Police Review Board meetings they were entitled to attend (PPR #50). One day IA will refuse to ask the questions IPR wants and Council will regret they didn't fix the contract.
The community needs to demand IPR have power to compel rather than subpoena power, because subpoenas would result in officers pleading the Fifth Amendment, grinding investigations to a halt. The ordinance allows IPR to ask questions directly to the officer so long as the contract does not prohibit that--which it still does.
We've repeatedly complained that the contract is not a fair place for the City to set public policy. If the PPA wants to change aspects of the PRB or IPR they can testify at City Council like the rest of us. Fortunately, some of their demands, such as the ability to veto who sits on the PRB, were pulled off the table. However, the PPA could try to prevent future changes from being made to the oversight system.
The contract's revised bill of rights will include that the City can conduct random drug tests on officers, including steroid testing-- though the Bureau of Human Resources explicitly told Council that steroid testing will be done for reasonable suspicion, not randomly, due to costs and limited availability of facilities. (On April 13, Willamette Week reported they found an affordable lab.) While random drug testing may turn up officers with addiction problems, the community's interest has been in finding out whether officers who, say, beat a man to death on the sidewalk, are quick to use their guns, or otherwise injure civilians in unwarranted ways, are on drugs, alcohol or steroids.
Two other items suggested by the AMA Coalition for Justice and Police Reform were also not incorporated into the PPA contract: mandating that interviews after deadly force/hospitalization incidents happen within 24 hours and annual reviews for officers. The City says they are trying to find a way to conduct annual reviews that does not impact the officers' wages, benefits or working conditions. In other words, a toothless evaluation will be created.
One other positive: The contract allows the City to "restrict or suspend police powers during pendency of investigation, [or] imposition of discipline." We call this the "Humphreys clause," since Commissioner Dan Saltzman's taking Officer Humphreys off duty while he was investigated for shooting a "beanbag" gun at a 12-year-old led to a fierce PPA backlash (PPR #49).
City leaders hailed the contract as "historic." Mayor Adams issued a news release that failed to mention the PPA's acceptance of the review boards, but trumpeted that the agreement: was supported by 71% of the PPA membership; covers drug testing for about 600 of 900 line officers per year; includes fitness incentives and creates "a financially sustainable future for the Bureau." In retrospect, it is good to know that the PPA's harsh stance against oversight can be softened with money. Maybe making the cops pay money toward settlements to families who have lost loved ones to police violence can "encourage" them to stop killing civilians.
Chief: 5 shootings "unacceptable"
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through citizen action.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.