WHAT WOULD CIVILIAN police oversight look like if the Portland Police Association gets its way?
The union gave us something of a sneak preview Friday, October 1, detailing its vision during its latest round of contract talks with the city. And as it did, a chill went up the spines of the reform advocates watching the proceedings.
Among the union's proposals: An eight-member police review board, in which a handful of members would be appointed by the union, would replace the city's current regime. The union would then have the right to peruse and comment on—if not actually approve—applications from citizens for some of the other spots.
The city's Independent Police Review (IPR) would not be welcome on that panel. And everyone picked to serve would need to run a gauntlet of odious checks: Three full-shift ride-alongs with a cop, a full day at the citizens' police academy, and the same rigorous background check that prospective police must pass.
(Of course, all this comes even as the union insists there shouldn't be a citizen review board in the first place.)
"[Panel members] should all understand the rules," says Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch. "But they don't need to sit in a cop car to do that."
There's more. The union also would approve facilitators, limit IPR investigators' ability to question cops and pursue claims, and speed up investigation timelines so much that some complaints might slip through the cracks.
To its credit, the city answered with a preview of its own: a new drug and alcohol policy that would force sworn officers to submit to random drug testing—as well as drug testing after use-of-force incidents.
It's a good start, but it's not clear whether the city will really insist. The same policy must also be bargained with the union that represents police commanders. That presents the immense challenge of finessing a complicated policy through two different sets of union negotiations—a potentially fatal twist. Negotiators said Friday that they weren't interested in "two different policies."
There was no hesitation on the part of the union, though. And if the city wants its officers to give ground on all the pocketbook issues that Mayor Sam Adams has identified as priorities—the bureau reported another $3.5 million shortfall—then you have to wonder where all that ground will come from.