AS THE PORTLAND City Council unanimously approved the city's new contract with the main police union last Wednesday, February 2—a deal that delivered a handful of key policy triumphs—the scene was as predictable as you might expect for something so controversial.
Or, rather, almost as predictable.
Mayor Sam Adams, the police commissioner, basked in his colleagues' praise but kept his own homily short and sweet. Adams signed off on $5 million in raises and other assorted pay perks to obtain random drug testing—including a very humane "treatment first" approach for pot and alcohol offenses.
Then Daryl Turner, the police union president, was hailed for selling the deal so well that 70 percent of the union's nearly 1,000 members signed off. Before he took office last summer, not only were the two sides not talking about the contract—they weren't talking at all.
And, also expected, community members asked why the contract utterly ignores other key changes sought by accountability advocates. For example, the deal does not include drug testing for officers after they use force, nor does it mention performance reviews. There are also questions about just how much the police have actually bought into the city's new civilian oversight program.
So who veered from the script? Curiously, it was Dan Saltzman—the ex-police commissioner whom Adams dumped last May, a man whose visage once graced these pages beneath a pair of goat horns after he bowed to union outrage over the suspension of a cop.
Backing away from the backslapping on the council dais, it was Saltzman who managed to mist the proceedings with cold water. Saltzman pressed harder than anyone on a giant hole in the drug-testing protocol: The fact that it won't include steroids any time soon.
"I just wanted to get that message out," explained Saltzman, who made testing an issue before Adams canned him. "This isn't something that should slide."
What's more, he also railed against state rules that put labor decisions—including discipline for officers—in the hands of arbitrators. In his remarks before voting (he even gave a shoutout to the quasi-anarchist Fire Frashour campaign), he griped that many arbitration decisions "defy common sense."
Through a political lens, his statements were provocative. It's well known that Saltzman, who hasn't ruled out challenging Adams in 2012, still burns over his loss of the police bureau. Accountability advocates would be a key base for Adams in a reelection effort, but some have grown disenchanted with him—and Saltzman could be trying to woo them.
I asked him about that, and—back to being predictable—he held his cards close.
"There were no 2012 implications," he told me. "This isn't something I've come to the party late on."