For a Fair Police Contract That Serves the PublicBeginning in 2021, the City of Portland will start its next round of negotiations with the Portland P olice Association over the labor contract covering sworn police officers. Amid a historic uprising against police brutality in the streets of Portland and across the country, we, the undersigned, call upon the City to keep the needs of grassroots Portlanders at the center of the bargaining process. As outlined below, the current City contract and side agreements with the PPA contain barriers to effective oversight of policing, and make it virtually impossible to fire officers for using excessive force or engaging in biased policing. While strengthening the City's contract with the PPA won't fix every issue in policing in Portland, it is an important part of the broader fight to hold police accountable for the harms they cause our communities.
A Public and Transparent Contract Process, True Police Accountability
City officials must be clear about the intended timeline for negotiations AND the timeline for setting the city's bargaining priorities, especially in light of the postponement of negotiations in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. Bargaining priorities must be set through a public process involving the entire City Council, including numerous opportunities for community members to provide meaningful input, direction, and oversight. All bargaining sessions should be open to the public, allowing much needed transparency into a process where historically the most important decisions are made behind closed doors.
Since the end of May, tens of thousands of Portlanders have collectively taken to the streets to protest police violence. Over 70,000 Portlanders called, emailed, or otherwise contacted City Council over the Police budget in June. The City has a mandate to rethink public and community safety, and changing the PPA contract is part of that work. When police harass, maim, and kill members of our community, they should face real consequences, up to and including termination.
Why Portland Should Improve its Police Association Contract Now: Brutal Attacks and Lack of Trust
From April 2018 to July 2020 alone, Portland Police Bureau officers killed nine people, shot at several more, and launched brutal assaults on unarmed demonstrators nearly every day since the ongoing uprising against police brutality began. This city needs a contract that guarantees true accountability for use of excessive force. National research is clear: contracts that include the following proposed changes reduce instances of police violence and make the city safer for residents and for police. 
Lack of public trust in the police is a serious reality in Portland; a contract that enforces community standards is a key component of rebuilding public trust. We support public employees' right to negotiate good working conditions, but reject the notion that clauses which solidify barriers to accountability constitute "working conditions." As public employees with authority to use deadly force, police occupy a unique position. Studies show that a contract that holds officers accountable can lead to improved safety rates for officers themselves, which we would in turn expect to improve officer morale. 
Specific Changes In the Contract that We Demand:
Enable an Effective System of Civilian Oversight: With the overwhelming passage of Ballot Measure 26-217, the people of Portland have made clear their desire to change the current system of civilian oversight. In order to comply with the intent of the measure, the following sections of the PPA contract will need to be changed so that civilian investigators have the power to investigate deadly force incidents and are fully empowered to independently investigate police misconduct:
* Meaningful power: An independent civilian agency needs the ability to compel officers to testify, and recommend and impose discipline. 
Hold Officers Accountable for Excessive Force or Bias-Based Policing: The City must be able to fire officers who have used excessive force or exhibited racism or other oppression against targeted communities. Provisions in the current contract severely limit the scope of misconduct investigations and narrowly restrict how discipline is handled. Recent state legislation on arbitration decisions has not substantially affected these limitations.
* If the PPA objects to a disciplinary decision, they can demand a review by an outside arbitrator who can overturn the discipline. The City may not appeal the arbitrator's decision. This provision should be struck from the contract. 
Public accountability for misconduct: The public should be informed when officers are disciplined. The contract prevents this by specifying that if the City reprimands or disciplines an officer, "it shall be done in a manner that is least likely to embarrass the officer before other officers or the public." This provision should be struck from the contract. 
Fairness in the Investigation Process : During misconduct interviews, officers receive 10-minute breaks every hour as well as additional rest and bathroom breaks at the officer's request. When police interview members of the public in criminal investigations, such breaks are not mandated.
While the processes are different, the stakes around officer administrative investigative interviews a re high. Therefore,this provision should be struck from the contract and the Police Bureau should use the same process for both the public and the police. 
Protect Complainants' Rights:
* If an investigation results in an officer being charged with misconduct, the officer will receive the "names of all witnesses and complainants who will appear against the officer and/or whose statements will be used against the officer," which raises serious concerns about possible retaliation against those trying to hold officers accountable for misconduct. The City claims anonymous complaints are possible, but the contract should not allow the offending officer to have access to a complainant's or witnesses name and information. This provision should be struck from the contract. 
Institute Comprehensive Mandatory Drug Testing: Require mandatory drug testing, including for steroids, after officers use force on the public.  When truck drivers have accidents, they are tested, the same should go for police in these serious situations.
Policy Concerns Related to the PPA Contract :
In addition to the items being negotiated directly with the Portland Police Association for their Collective Bargaining Agreement, we ask Council to consider these issues which may come up as side agreements to the actual contract. While we do not necessarily agree that any of these subjects are mandatory for bargaining, we encourage them to be worked out during negotiation.
Details on the oversight system: W hen the current civilian oversight body reviews the disciplinary decisions of the Police Bureau, they are required to use the "reasonable person" standard which asks whether a reasonable person given the same evidence would agree with the Bureau's finding. This "standard of review" requires the Citizen Review Committee--and the City-- to defer to the police point of view.  Regardless of who reviews these cases in the future, the standard of review should be changed to "preponderance of the evidence": does the majority of evidence in the misconduct case support or contradict the Bureau's decision.
We also encourage the City to publish a list of all side agreements which have been made with the PPA, as they affect public policy just as much as the contract itself does. Often community members call for change and accountability and are told it cannot be done due to the contract, when in fact the policies in question have been negotiated in another form. Except for the Ordinance accompanying the 2016 agreement,  it is not clear how the community is expected to know the substance of such agreements being made in our names.
Portland Jobs with Justice
ACLU of Oregon
Portland-Metro People's Coalition
Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform
Imagine Black (formerly known as PAALF)
Oregon Justice Resource Center
Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice
Jewish Voice for Peace PDX
Voz Workers Rights Education Project
Reynolds Education Association
Communication Workers of America Local 7901
Portland State University, American Association of University Professors, Executive Council
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Extinction Rebellion PDX
Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition
Oregon DA for the People
Portland Interfaith Clergy Resistance
As the Spirit Moves Us
Ainsworth United Church of Christ
First Unitarian Portland
Veterans For Peace Chapter 72
Some Members of the Portland Jewish Community
Nasty Women Get Sh*t Done
Signers after the initial December 10, 2020 release include:
Pacific Northwest Family Circle
Black Millennial Movement
Alliance for Democracy - Portland
Multnomah Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Sunrise Movement PDX
Bend the Arc Portland
P'nai Or of Portland
Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood Association (MSANA)
Our Portland PAC
Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association
Brooklyn Action Corps
Portland Central America Solidarity Committee
Augustana Lutheran Church
AFSCME Local 328
Portland United Against Hate
J.U.I.C.E. (Justice, Unity, Integrity, Community, and Equality)
Defend Democracy Coalition
Kol Shalom (Portland's Community for Humanistic Judaism)
Portsmouth Neighborhood Association
Portland Raging Grannies
Portland Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Sunnyside Neighborhood Association
Oregon Board of Rabbis
Oregon Nurses Association Union of United Staff
For more information, please contact:
 Sinyangwe, Samuel, "Examining the Role of Use of Force Policies in Ending Police Violence"
(September 20, 2016). Available at SSRN:
 See preceding citation, as well as Perez, Douglas, Common Sense About Police Review (Temple
University Press, 1994).
 Portland Police Association Contract Sections 61.2.2 and 188.8.131.52:
 Portland Police Bureau Discipline Guide, Category C: Offensive or discriminatory language
(e.g. epithets) and Category D: Disparate treatment:
 Portland Police Association Contract Section 20.2:
 Sections 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11:
 City Code 3.21.020(S):
 Portland Police Association Contrat Section 57.2:
 188037 BODY WORN CAMERA PROCEDURES:
NOTE: This page mirrors the original letter posted on the Unite Oregon website at https://uniteoregon.org/policing
Portland Copwatch home page
Peace and Justice Works home page
Posted December 10, 2020, last updated April 14, 2021