Last month, the city's rank-and-file police union, the Portland Police Association, quietly agreed to settle a labor grievance meant to shut down the region's computer-assisted 911 dispatch system, which is now more than a year old.
The lack of ceremony in the settlement was curious. As you might remember, PPA president Daryl Turner went on a tear last summer, complaining in nearly every news outlet in town about the dangers of the new system's technical difficulties—flaws that largely were fixed soon after rollout. And, as the Mercury exclusively reported, Turner also was seeking a guarantee that police supervisors wouldn't use the system's embedded GPS function as a new way to discipline wayward officers.
The 911 issue was such a big deal that State Representative Mary Nolan, endorsed by the PPA, used it to bludgeon City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversaw the system's implementation, in their tight primary race this spring.
So what gives? Not all that much. Grievance-settlement documents (PDF) obtained by the Mercury this week show a much tamer discussion behind the scenes than in newsprint. Turns out the union pretty quickly agreed the city was acting in "good faith" to address the various cosmetic and technical issues raised by the union, and the city pretty quickly offered up that it never actually planned to use the GPS function as the sole basis for punishing an officer. Based on that understanding, the union decided the 911 system could live on, and the city promised to let a union rep sit on a special 911 panel.
That should be of some comfort to Fritz, who could easily face renewed criticisms about the 911 system this fall. But odds are it won't stay buried. Turner tells me he's glad the city is "moving toward" making fixes (like getting the system to not spit out so much information at officers all at once, he says). But he's still displeased about what he's convinced was a rushed push to adopt a system that will never be, he says, perfect.
"We were concerned about safety issues, safety issues for officers which resonated into safety issues for citizens. That was the most important part of it," he said. "I don't think it's perfect. I don't think it's beter than the system we had."