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Police Association Public Meetings a Sham:
Real Decisions Made Behind Closed Doors
by Dan Handelman

Have you ever sat in a meeting for hours and hours and felt nothing was really being accomplished? As the only civilian in Portland to attend every public meeting from September to December between the City and the Portland Police Association (PPA) about a collective bargaining agreement, I got that sense. Some of these meetings lasted five or more hours, with an hour or less of actual talking time due to "caucus" breaks. In a June 2 article, the Portland Mercury revealed that my feeling was justified. Despite the scuffle over holding the meetings in public, which the PPA ended up conceding (PPR #52), according to documents obtained by the Mercury, much of the negotiating went on in closed-door meetings, over the phone, and by email.

Merc Headline

Reporter Denis Thierault wrote that the secret sessions were used to discuss controversial issues to "avoid tipping off skeptical cops on one side or police accountability advocates on the other." He quotes Bureau of Human Resources Director Yvonne Deckard saying "[The public] asked to see how the sausage was made on the public side. They didn't ask what some of the other ingredients were." The article states agreements that were not discussed in public ended up in the final contract. Not surprisingly, because the list of items approved by Council in February (PPR #53)--including random drug testing and the PPA accepting the changes to the City's review systems--more resembled a shopping list than a legal document, disagreements remain over what the contract means. In the PPA's June Rap Sheet, Secretary-Treasurer Tom Perkins wrote: "Every time the PPA turns around, we need to battle the CITY over issues with the new contract." Although the "union" thought the contract was easily understood, they hammered out detailed agreements regarding health and fitness, educational money, on-call and comp time issues. The last two issues came to Council on August 24, costing taxpayers $63,000.

The question remains: Did it make a difference that the public, Kabuki-theater sessions existed and were attended by the public and the press? Would it be better to forego hours of waiting for incomprehensible but sometimes juicy tidbits to come out at the table and simply wait to complain about the outcome later? After all, the public was not allowed to speak or even come within 8 feet of the negotiating table. Despite the colossal waste of time, as with other meetings monitored by Portland Copwatch, it's probably best for the public to show up and let the powers that be know we are watching. Now if only they'd be so kind as to open the window so we can see what's going on.


September, 2011
Also in PPR #54

Live Rounds Wound Man;
    New Death in Custody

  • OIR Group Visits Portland
  • Other area shootings
DOJ Investigates PPB
CPRC on Race & Force;
    Stats Reveal Profiling

Whistle Blower Loses Lawsuit
CRC: Whistle Blower Case,
    Retreat and Forum

IPR Annual Report Lacking
Review Board Report Reveals
    Cops Out of Policy

Top 25 settlements near $7M
Portland Rejoins Terror Task Force
Chief Targets "Gangs," Closes Bar
Gun Free Zone Report to Council
Tired Mom Testifies Against Sit/Lie
Drug Impact Areas Controversial
Police "Union" Contract In Secret
Quick Flashes:
    Drunk, Angry&Pervo cops

  • Drunk cops get light punishment
  • Traffic cop pulls gun in road rage
  • Pervocop expunges record
  • Young Black Man Catatonic After Arrest
Rapping Back 54

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

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