Ryan Alexander-Tanner

NO ISSUE in this mayoral election has bedeviled candidate Jules Bailey more than the 48-hour rule, the contract provision giving Portland cops at least two days after a shooting before speaking with internal affairs investigators.

As the Multnomah County commissioner has worked to set himself apart from state Treasurer Ted Wheeler—and hold onto a helpful endorsement from Portland cops—he's at times been far more imprecise than his opponents, most of whom agree with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that the provision needs to go.

As Willamette Week recently noted, in early March Bailey was talking about a need to "address" the rule, leaving plenty of room for interpretation and not offering many specifics. That's not the case now. He told the Mercury recently: "We need to get rid of the 48-hour rule. Period. Full stop."

More interesting than shifting answers, though, is what Bailey's been saying next.

In an interview with the Mercury—and elsewhere—he's said that the controversial and high-profile rule may be on the way out far sooner than anyone imagined. "I believe we will have the 48-hour rule eliminated before I become mayor," he told us. As in, before 2017.

That is major news, if it's true. City consultants and DOJ attorneys have made the rule a target of recommended reforms for years.

"As we have stated repeatedly, beginning with our initial report to the city in May 2012, the inability of the bureau to obtain a statement from the involved officers the night of an incident is inconsistent with best investigative practice," reads a report released in January by the OIR Group, a consulting firm contracted by the city to analyze Portland police shootings.

It's long been assumed that any change to the rule would only come from contract negotiations slated for next year. After all, the city needs to negotiate—often at length—with the Portland Police Association (PPA) if it wants to do something as simple as give cops a raise. Surely eliminating one of the union's key bargaining chips couldn't be simple, right?

"I have actually sat down with the PPA," Bailey said. "I believe if people actually sat down with them, I bet we could get the 48-hour rule eliminated before the next contract."

The union president denies that's the case. Daryl Turner tells me he's talked to Bailey about the 48-hour rule, but doesn't recall any conversations about scrapping it—particularly outside of contract negotiations.

But it's also true that the police union's been quietly hashing out its current contract with the city, and that those talks have taken a while. Remember those raises I mentioned? Mayor Charlie Hales has proposed stepped-up pay and signing bonuses for city cops as a means to attract more people to a shorthanded force. That's a key aim of the PPA. And despite Turner's claims to the Mercury, it's not impossible that the 48-hour rule will come into play in those discussions.

Asked about all of this, Bailey would only stand by his earlier claims, saying he'd work to remove the 48-hour rule "if it's not done by the time I'm mayor."