In the wake of an Oregonian story last week that found 91 percent of Portland Police Association members received a generous premium "for simply showing up to get their finger pricked, blood pressure taken and height and weight checked," Commissioner Dan Saltzman today filed a resolution that seeks to rescind the pay perk.
Saltzman argues the "biometric screening" that the city's human resources bureau wound up giving officers fell short of what the police bureau and the council wanted when they approved the premium—1 percent of an officer's pay—last February.
Instead, Saltzman said, officers should have to prove their mettle in a physical fitness test that mirrors their actual job duties. The O says human resources officials buckled amid complaints by the Portland Police Association last fall. Covering the contract negotiations myself last year, I also remember in talks with sources that the test was a very real expectation, pushed by Police Chief Mike Reese.
"It's laughable," Saltzman said in a statement announcing the resolution, which will go up for a vote next week. "We should not reward people for having a pulse. We may not be the most physically fit group of elected officials, but we're not fools. We are certainly able to discern when an agreement made in good faith is not being kept by all parties."
We'll update with comment from other officials when we get it. Saltzman's office, in the meantime, signaled Reese would be sympathetic.
Update 5:30 PM: Saltzman, approached after city council, says he "didn't ask" whether Reese would support his resolution but that the two did talk "as a courtesy." He said the chief shared some thoughts that were "off the record."
Randy Leonard, meanwhile, agreed that a physical fitness test "clearly was the intention" when the council signed off on the Portland Police Association pact. But "whether a resolution is the appropriate vehicle" to remedy the problem, he said, was another question.
Update 7:20 PM: The Oregonian has spoken to Yvonne Deckard, director of the bureau of human resources. Deckard said the cost of paying cops overtime to take an actual test could potentially cost "millions," and that's why, when the PPA beefed, the city backed down and went with a simple blood test that met the vague language of the contract but wasn't expensive.
It's baffling, if you ask me, that this kind of issue didn't come up during bargaining.
Deckard at least told the O that the cost, as reported by the police bureau, was taken out of context. Her office budgeted for 70 percent of officers to pass the test—so the extra 20 percent only cost an additional $119,000, she told the O.