After a couple of weeks off to accommodate scheduling conflicts and medical issues among some of the negotiators, the city and the Portland Police Association are planning to resume contract talks in a seven-hour session—WHICH IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC—starting Friday morning.
The sessions began in mid-September, with the two sides mostly laying out their respective sets of demands. The city is looking to rein in overtime and compensatory time, and limit cost-of-living increases, and it also has expressed interest in pursuing drug-testing of officers. And, meanwhile, the union is asking for a general pay bump, better disability benefits and a dramatic weakening of citizen oversight. Now, the city and the union will begin what could be a monthslong dance over the final agreement.
But there were several proposals that advocates—who have diligently attended each of the sessions so far—were disappointed the city hasn't raised. Indications had been the city would pursue annual performance reviews and push back on oversight issues by seeking an even stronger system than is currently in place. Oversight has become a flashpoint after a series of high-profile deaths at the hands of police in the past five years.
This week, the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Reform made public a letter it sent to Mayor Sam Adams, Portland's police commissioner, demanding more backbone on reform. With talks starting, it seems apt to print it here. Read it after the jump.
ALBINA MINISTERIAL ALLIANCE COALITION FOR JUSTICE AND POLICE REFORM
October 10, 2010
MR. SAM ADAMS, MAYOR
1221 SW 4TH AVENUE, SUITE 340
PORTLAND, OR 97204
Dear Mayor Adams;
The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform would like to bring to your attention some serious issues to be considered for the current negations between the City and the Portland Police Association (PPA). While we respect and support the right of the collective bargaining process which governs the terms and conditions of employment of members of the police bureau, certain issues being discussed have a substantial effect on public policy and community trust in our police bureau.
We note at the outset that the PPA and the City have made certain proposals that raise significant community concerns. For instance, the PPA has proposed further changes to the Police Review Board, governed by Section 3.20.140, which was recently modified on March 31, 2010. At that time, the Council held hearings in which interested parties were able to testify as to the proposed changes to the ordinance. Further, the council convened a facilitated "stakeholder group" in which community groups, council members, the bureau, and the Commanders Association and Portland Police Association were represented to make additional recommendations. Further revisions to the composition of the Police Review Board were made on August 13, 2010 at the request of the Police Chief. Given the extensive opportunity to discuss and debate changes to the Use of Force Review Board, and the great level of interest and participation from the community on this issue, we oppose any further changes to the Use of Force Review Board made in the context of the collective bargaining process, as it has a substantial impact on public policy. In particular, we are very concerned with the proposal that the board be expanded by replacing the two peer officers chosen by the Chief with three members chosen by the PPA.
We urge both parties to the negotiation to adopt measures consistent with the following:
1) Drug Testing:
We strongly urge mandatory drug testing after events such as officer involved shootings and use of force incidents resulting in substantial physical injury to a suspect requiring hospitalization or a suspect's in-custody death. We also support drug testing where reasonable suspicion exists that a bureau member is engaged in the use of controlled substances, including steroids. It is our understanding that multiple agencies nationwide permit similar testing, as well as the Salem and Oregon State Police Departments. While we support the officer's right to privacy, it must be balanced against the danger to our community if illicit drug use by bureau members goes unchecked.
2) Interviews of officers involved in deadly force incidents:
We strongly urge that interviews of officers involved in deadly force incidences be conducted within 24 hours of the incident. We understand the current practice is that Internal Affairs (IAD) conducts the interview with involved officers within 72 hours, but that is voluntary. We urge a 24-hour requirement to be made policy.
3) Annual Performance Review for Officers:
Just as almost every other public employee is subject to an annual performance evaluation or review, we believe bureau members and the community would benefit as such evaluations provide a basis for clear expectations of job performance, informed decisions on promotions, pay increases, work assignments, awards, and any disciplinary action. Further, performance evaluations keep officers informed of what is expected of them and how well they are meeting those expectations and has the potential to encourage improved performance and commitment to established goals. Annual evaluations can also assist the Bureau in identifying opportunities for additional training and may foster a more effective working relationship between officers and supervisors. We understood that this was going to be one item put forward by the City, according to both Commissioner Saltzman and Mayor Adams, yet we heard nothing about it in the bargaining sessions held so far.
4) Allow IPR to compel officer testimony:
The ordinance as currently written grants IPR subpoena power, but qualifies that power by stating that
" IPR personnel will not subpoena a sworn Bureau member employed by the Portland Police Bureau, but is authorized to direct Bureau members to cooperate with administrative investigations as described in Section 3.21.120."
Section 3.21.120 states that "[w]hen a collective bargaining agreement is applicable and specifies that a member may only be interviewed by a police officer, IPR personnel shall direct questions through the IAD investigator. The IAD investigator may repeat the question to the member and/or direct the member to answer the question." Section 3.21.210.C.2.a (emphasis added). The current contract, Section 61.2.2, indicates that interviews should happen in police facilities and will be conducted by an officer. Language should be added or amended to indicate IPR staff ability to conduct these investigations.
Thus, IPR does not currently have the authority to compel officers to answer questions posed by IPR where the bargaining agreement requires interview by another officer; IAD has the discretion to decide whether to repeat a question posed by IPR and whether to direct the bureau member to answer. Again, we strongly urge the parties to negotiate terms that would allow IPR to directly question bureau members and require a response.
We thank you for your attention to these significant community concerns.
Dr. Leroy Haynes, Chairman
Dr. T. Allen Bethel, President