THE BIGSHOTS who lined up last week for Mayor Charlie Hales' proclamation of peace with the city's main police union—over federal reforms and a new contract—were mostly all smiles.
That was, of course, the idea.
The twin agreements, announced last Wednesday, November 6, will speed along key changes in police oversight, training, and discipline—avoiding the threat of a bench trial next summer on accusations by the US Department of Justice that our cops unconstitutionally brutalize people with mental illness.
"We could have failed, and yet here we are," said Hales, whose religious-inflected remarks preceded soaring words from Police Chief Mike Reese, US Attorney for Oregon Amanda Marshall, and Daryl Turner of the Portland Police Association (PPA). "The clouds have parted and all of us have agreed on a way to move forward."
But behind that rare display of comity, several potential battles may yet be blooming—with cumbersome, potentially troublesome issues either unresolved or waiting to be made public.
Financial details and other concessions worked out between the PPA and the city will remain under wraps for several more weeks, Hales said during his remarks. Later, City Attorney James Van Dyke told reporters that all details of negotiations would remain "confidential" until the deals are officially approved.
Hales also confirmed some other major points of contention that have yet to be smoothed over.
Changing the so-called "48-hour rule"—a policy shielding cops from internal inquiries immediately after force incidents—was not part of either agreement announced last Wednesday, Hales said, but might be discussed later.
The announced deal also hedges on the controversial notion of whether cops must answer questions from civilian Independent Police Review (IPR) investigators and whether cops, per the feds' insistence, can be required to immediately give a "safety" statement after a force incident.
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 needs the union's agreement or not.
Even some of the acknowledged points of agreement carry dispute.
Turner and Hales both said the PPA had dropped its challenge of previously approved changes in police training—tighter policies on Tasers and overall use of force. But they disagreed on whether the policies might be tweaked. Turner said he extracted some constitutional concessions. But neither side provided any more details.
The city and union also agreed on something called a "discipline matrix," a document that matches categories of misconduct with proposed, standardized consequences. It's not certain, however, what that guideline will say. A version was drafted months ago by police bureau and IPR representatives, the Mercury has been told, but it's unclear if that draft or another was part of the rapprochement.
The new agreement, technically a "memorandum of understanding," contemplates further friction in how the reforms are interpreted. It lays out a process for beseeching the feds for help with adjudicating disputes. The US District Court judge handling the case, Michael Simon, will monitor the deal for breaches—but he won't be able to unilaterally impose reforms without giving the PPA a chance to object.
The city council and PPA members must still ratify both the reform agreement and the proposed contract. Hales says the union contract could be ready for a vote in a few weeks but cautioned that some of the more controversial changes under dispute could be carved out—leaving the immediate agreement only on "money issues" and other widely accepted issues.
A court hearing on the reforms would follow early next year, giving the public a chance to weigh in on the changes before Simon decides to approve them or not.
Hales said he'd "hoped" the two deals might come together at the same time, but that it was a happy accident. He says he "didn't orchestrate that."
But it won't be smooth sailing. As a hint of the challenges still facing Hales, it was clear at the press conference that not everyone was thrilled. City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade, who oversees the city's IPR division, was pointedly not smiling.
It was even an open question in city hall whether she'd show up. Hales had to do some fence-mending in light of his reticence last month to approve IPR-backed oversight changes that flowed right from the feds. ["Maybe Charlie's Not in Charge," Hall Monitor, Oct 30]. Top on that list was letting IPR investigators directly question cops.
At a hearing where Griffin-Valade laid out the reforms, after months of shopping them around city hall, she ceded the floor to Reese, who savaged the proposals. That move enraged Griffin-Valade, who created public records detailing botched police investigations by sending memos to the mayor's office.
It later came out that Hales had put off meetings on the IPR's proposals before the vote. He also didn't invite a city attorney to weigh in on conflicting claims on whether or not the city would need union permission.
Griffin-Valade says she's still committed to reaching a deal. Sources say that could happen sometime in December, with negotiations ongoing on how to tweak some of the IPR changes.
Hales suggested the same.
"We have an understanding," he says, "that those reforms are going to move forward."
He was smiling.