And, in a related announcement that hadn't been telegraphed by the parties beforehand, Hales also announced that his office and the PPA had all but wrapped up months of talks on a new labor contract that had been held up, at times, by the impasse over federal changes. (For the record? Just two negotiating sessions on that contract were public.)
The two announcements are expected to forestall what was shaping up to be a federal bench trial on police reforms next summer. That trial would have come almost two years after the US Department of Justice sued the city for engaging in a "pattern or practice" of using excessive force against people with mental illness.
US District Court Judge Michael Simon had threatened the trial this summer after the union asked to intervene in the federal case and shape a package of proposed reforms put forward by the feds and the city in late 2012. The city and the union were both keen to avoid an actual trial. The current agreement lets both save face by avoiding an admission of using unconstitutional force. Simon, in a trial, might have definitively ruled that they did.
"We could have failed, and yet here we are," Hales said, still looking awfully jet-lagged after a long trip to China that brought him home just two days before. "The clouds have parted and all of us have agreed on a way to move forward.... we will be asking the court to enter this agreement together."
As for what actually changed that brought everyone together for the good times? That was less clear, at least during the press conference. No one who spoke—Turner, Hales, Police Chief Mike Reese, US Attorney for Oregon Amanda Marshall, or Dr. T. Allen Bethel of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform—offered up a shred of detail. But the short answer is this: Not much.
Details on the DOJ pact were left to pair of documents handed out after the event: a copy of the legal agreement between the city and PPA, and a handy "fact sheet" explaining that six-page document. As for details about the union contract, Hales said they'd emerge only in the coming weeks, with City Attorney Jim Van Dyke telling reporters that details, so far, would remain confidential.
After the press conference, Hales did confirm some facts. Previously implemented changes in police training—tighter Taser and use of force policies—will remain in place despite a previous union challenge. He also said there was agreement on a "discipline matrix," a document that matches categories of misconduct with proposed, standardized consequences.
And it emerged that some points of contention have yet to be smoothed.
Hales said changing the 48-hour rule, the period of time after a force incident in which cops are shielded from internal inquiries, was not part of either agreement announced today but that it could be discussed later. The agreement also hedges on the controversial notion of whether cops can be forced to answer questions from civilian Independent Police Review investigators and whether cops, per the feds' insistence, can be required to immediately give a "safety" statement after a force incident.
Some of those issues, Hales said, "are still subject to further discussion."
The agreement patches over those gaps by making it clear the union can challenge those provisions if the city insists on pushing them forward, with both sides agreeing to let the Oregon Employment Relations Board decide whether the city must first negotiate with the union or not. That was confirmed by Van Dyke and Deputy City Attorney Ellen Osoinach, the city's lead negotiator.
Beyond that, the new memorandum of understanding between the city and union lays out a process for beseeching the DOJ for help adjudicating disputes over the settlement agreement's language. Simon would be able to monitor the deal for breaches but couldn't unilaterally impose reforms without giving the PPA a chance to object.
A fairness hearing in Simon's courtroom, the first chance for the public to weigh in on the changes as agreed to, could happen this winter, Marshall said.
The city council and the PPA membership must first ratify the reform agreement and the proposed contract. Hales says the union contract could be ready for a vote in weeks but cautioned that some of the more controversial changes still under dispute could be carved out—leaving the immediate agreement on "money issues" and other terms everyone's okay with.
Hales said he had "hoped' the two deals might together at the same time but that he "didn't orchestrate that."
Turner, during the press conference, promised that, "In the weeks to come, we will be diligently working to finalize our agreement with the United States. Another key step in this process will be finalizing our collective bargaining agreement with the city in the coming weeks. Once these key pieces are finalized, we will be withdrawing our objections to the entry of the proposed DOJ settlement agreement."
He also called the agreement "collaborative" and said the union won assurances that constitutional standards for measuring the improper use of force would be respected.
As for the timing of the two pacts?
"They just happened to come together at the same time," he told me, insisting, at first, that the two pieces were separate. But he also confirmed that some of the grievances dropped as part of contract talks were related to the DOJ settlement.
Hales also addressed, after the event, his apparent reticence last month to approve IPR-backed oversight changes that flowed from the DOJ settlement. At a hearing where IPR Director Constantin Severe and City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade laid out their reforms, months after shopping them around city and to community groups, Hales kept mum and seemed disengaged while ceding the floor to Reese, who savaged the proposals.
That move floored the auditor, who pulled the proposals back and aired some of the bureau's dirty laundry in memos to the mayor's office. Hales, however, said the reforms will be back on track and said the police might be wrong about whether they require negotiating with the police union.
Hales notably shook Griffin-Valade's hand before the press conference, though she was one of the few folks who wasn't smiling brightly at the presser. Commissioner Nick Fish reportedly played a role in helping mend those fences.
Hales acknowledged inviting Reese to speak at the hearing and claimed he doesn't "conduct show hearings" where minds are made up beforehand and that "we're going to craft our policy in the light of the day."
In fact, Hales had put off meetings on the IPR's proposals before the vote and wasn't clued in. He also didn't invite a city attorney in to weigh in on conflicting claims by the IPR and auditor and police bureau and police union. Though maybe it's because they knew the DOJ deal was close and didn't want to tip their hand.
"We have an understanding that those reforms are going to move forward," Hales says.