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Portland Copwatch: Do not lock in a bad police "union" contract for 4 years

Portland Copwatch calls upon the City Council to slow down the process on ratifying a proposed contract for the Portland Police Association. Since the term of the contract is three years and the old contract doesn't expire until June, 2017, action now will lock in impediments to accountability until mid-2020, when the next Mayor's race will be underway. It would make more sense to allow the incoming Mayor to negotiate the terms of the police officers' contract that he has to supervise for the next four years.
COMMENTS: Do not lock in a bad police "union" contract for 4 years

From Portland Copwatch < copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org>
To Portland City Council -- Commissioner Amanda Fritz < amanda@portlandoregon.gov>Add contact, Commissioner Dan Saltzman < dan@portlandoregon.gov>Add contact, Commissioner Nick Fish < Nick@portlandoregon.gov>Add contact, Commissioner Steve Novick < novick@portlandoregon.gov>Add contact, Mayor Charlie Hales < mayorhales@portlandoregon.gov>Add contact
Cc News Media < newsmedia@portlandcopwatch.org>Add contact

Date 9.26.16 - 13:28

Portland Copwatch
(a project of Peace and Justice Works)
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065 (office)
(503) 321-5120 (incident report line)
 copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org
 http://www.portlandcopwatch.org

To Mayor Hales and Commissioners Fish, Fritz, Novick and Saltzman

Portland Copwatch calls upon the City Council to slow down the process on ratifying a proposed contract for the Portland Police Association. Since the term of the contract is three years and the old contract doesn't expire until June, 2017, action now will lock in impediments to accountability until mid-2020, when the next Mayor's race will be underway. It would make more sense to allow the incoming Mayor to negotiate the terms of the police officers' contract that he has to supervise for the next four years.

As noted in the ordinance attached to the contract, the Portland Police Association hasn't even voted on this contract yet, meaning it's premature for Council to be discussing it.

While it has been an important goal of the community (and numerous experts who have advised the City) to get rid of the "48-hour rule," doing away with that cannot be the sole achievement of this round of bargaining. The PPA made it clear to the Community Oversight Advisory Board in 2015 that they believed the rule was necessary based on science that dictated a person needs two sleep cycles to refresh their memories. The very fact that they are willing to give up this rule in exchange for pay raises means their devotion to this pseudo-science is wafer thin. Furthermore, the City Attorney told Judge Simon last fall that the 48-hour rule has rarely if ever been invoked in recent years as officers have been coming in for voluntary interviews, albeit 3 or more days after shooting incidents. Moreover, it seems as if officers will have longer than 48 hours in cases where they will now be allowed to review not just their police reports but body camera footage in non-deadly force cases.

By giving away the financial demands of the PPA in exchange for removing just one public policy issue, the City has nothing left to negotiate further changes.

PCW sent a letter to the Mayor and Mayor-elect in August (in conjunction with the AMA Coalition and the Portland NAACP) which outlined specific changes that should be negotiated into this contract.

For example, we called for the City to fix the binding arbitration clause so officers who are fired stay fired. Our suggestion is to at least move deadly force incidents to the civil service board system so that ultimately a judge, not a biased arbitrator, might decide if firing an officer was valid.

We also listed a number of issues in the contract that act to impede our police oversight system. Independent Police Review Division Director Constantin Severe outlined some of those aspects in a presentation to Council just two weeks ago on September 14. Those elements include the ability of IPR to investigate officer-involved shootings and to compel officer testimony, and for the Citizen Review Committee to be able to hear deadly force case appeals.
(< https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMTmjO4NlH8> at about 3:54:00)

We also had urged the City not to allow the PPA to bargain their ability to review body camera footage before writing police reports. While it's not written into the contract itself, the ordinance you are considering specifically lists that very issue is a mandatory subject of bargaining. Even though there is a prohibition in the draft PPB policy saying that there is an exception when officers use deadly force, (a) that is a policy that can be rewritten unless Council formalizes it into code, and (b) there is no such exception for police use of force which causes injury but not death.

The August letter also asked that the City make drug testing mandatory after deadly and excessive force incidents, the same way that federal rules require truck drivers to take drug tests when they injure or kill someone in an accident.

Most importantly we asked for two overarching things: one was that the bargaining sessions be held in public, the other was that public policy issues be separated out of the PPA's rightful negotiations on compensation, benefits and other workers' issues. As it happens, all the negotiations happened in secret and we only learned they were occurring through the media. And, as noted above, the remaining issues around getting rid of bad officers, improving misconduct investigations, reviewing deadly force, and now use of body cameras are all being dictated by a 900-member organization rather than the 600,000+ citizens of Portland.

The body camera policy also contains a large number of other problems, including but not limited to:
--The Special Emergency Reaction Team is not required to use body cameras, when they are most likely as a unit to use implements of deadly force.
--Officer discretion is tilted toward not recording self-initiated activity, unless there is "a likelihood of enforcement action being taken." This means officers will not have to record the common practice of patting down African American young men if they want to "speak like gentlemen" (Portland Tribune, 12/19/13).
--Despite the fact that two officers have left the force in the last two years for taking advantage of women who'd been involved in sexual abuse investigations, officers are asked to turn their cameras off when talking to such persons. Perhaps a better policy would be to record the interaction but put stricter rules on the release of such footage.
--Broadening out from that concern, the policy seems to be emphasizing the use of the footage for prosecuting community members (with numerous references to the District Attorney*), rather than holding officers accountable for misconduct, which is how the City has been selling the idea of this multi-million dollar investment.

Also, though officers have to verbally notify civilians they are being recorded, they do not have to remind them of their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

We also remind Council that (as noted in the draft policy) the release of footage in high-profile incidents will need to be redacted to blur out participants' faces because of a terrible clause that was added to the state law on body cameras. We urge Council to test the law (and try to change it) by allowing participants to sign off on having their faces shown, and by showing police-- who are public employees-- in such videos.

In summary, we urge the City to put the current draft of the PPA contract on hold, allow the new Mayor to help bargain actual meaningful changes to the contract, and consider changes to body camera policies-- which Council should then vote into code rather than allowing the PPB to change them on a whim.

Thank you for your time

dan handelman
portland copwatch

*-One provision warns officers to remember that the DA may have to share the footage with defense attorneys, leading to questions as to why an officer would take that into consideration if the goal is getting to the truth.

address: address: http://www.portlandcopwatch.org