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Police Accountability

Portland Police Association Contract

 

For a Fair Police Contract That Serves the Public 

Beginning in 2021, the City of Portland will start its next round of negotiations with the Portland Police 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.[1]

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.[2]

 

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.[3]

• Deadly force: An independent civilian agency must have explicit jurisdiction in deadly force cases. [4] 

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. [5] 

• Change the Discipline Matrix:  Although the Discipline Matrix is not a part of the PPA contract, it is a major factor related to holding officers accountable. The Discipline Matrix should not be part of the contract, but the document should be addressed during these negotiations. As became clear when an officer made racially biased (and violent) comments as a "joke" and could not be fired, the Discipline Matrix needs to allow for firing of officers who commit such acts on their first offense. We urge the City to fix this part of the Matrix. [6] 

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. [7] 

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 are 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. [8]

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. [9] 

• While members of the public often fight for weeks or months to receive police reports during criminal investigations, officers in misconduct investigations are offered a copy of the recording of their interview, and if they are charged with a crime, receive all copies of investigation-related interviews within 7 days. [10] If these provisions cannot be fixed to protect civilians’ rights they 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. [11]  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: When 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. [12]  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.

End Special Duty for Second Employers: The Special Duty for Second Employers program allows off-duty police officers to provide security services for corporations and retailers, such as the Apple Store in downtown Portland, while using their City-issued, taxpayer-owned uniforms and equipment on behalf of these private companies. The Portland Police Association controls how, where, and when officers are assigned to these duties. Publicly-employed police officers should not be providing security to private entities, especially not when they use taxpayer dollars to do so. We demand the end of the Special Duty for Second Employers program. [13] 

Body Cameras: The current policy on body-worn cameras was negotiated in 2016 and the draft at the time suggested that officers should be able to review body camera footage before writing reports. [14] While we do not take a collective position on whether Portland Police should wear body cameras, we do believe it's important to address the policy on body cameras in the event the City decides to move forward with them. Experts have said that the current policy will not provide evidence of what the officer's "reasonable belief" was at the time of the incident. We urge Council to disallow review of footage until after reports are written. 

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, [15] it is not clear how the community is expected to know the substance of such agreements being made in our names.   

 

Signed,

Unite Oregon

ACLU of Oregon

Oregon Justice Resource Center

Portland Jobs with Justice

Portland-Metro People's Coalition

Portland Copwatch

Jewish Voice for Peace PDX

Voz Workers Rights Education Project

Communication Workers of America Local 7901

Portland State University, American Association of University Professors, Executive Council

Portland's Resistance

Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Portland DSA

Portland Forward

Oregon DA for the People

Onward Oregon

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

BerniePDX

 

Want to learn more about this letter? Is your organization interested in signing on? Please contact Andrew Riley, Communications and Policy Coordinator at Unite Oregon by email, andrew@uniteoregon.org.


Footnotes

[1] Sinyangwe, Samuel, “Examining the Role of Use of Force Policies in Ending Police Violence” (September 20, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2841872 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2841872

[2] See preceding citation, as well as Perez, Douglas, Common Sense About Police Review (Temple University Press, 1994).

[3] Portland Police Association Contract Sections 61.2.2 and 61.2.2.4

[4] Section 62.1.3

[5] Section 22.5

[6] Portland Police Bureau Discipline Guide Category C: Offensive or discriminatory language (e.g. epithets) and Category D: Disparate treatment

[7] Portland Police Association Contract Section 20.2

[8]  Section 61.2.2.6

[9]  Section 61.2.3.2

[10] Sections 61.2.2.8 and 61.2.3.1

[11] Section 61.10

[12] City Code 3.21.020(S)

[13] Portland Police Association Contract Section 57.2

[14] 188037 BODY WORN CAMERA PROCEDURES 

[15] Ordinance number 188037 as amended