• Will Aitchison, longtime PPA counsel
Sometime this week, the Portland Police Association will begin mailing ballots to its 900-plus members, hoping they vote yes on a tentative contract proposal struck with the city last month and unveiled for public consumption in meetings last Wednesday and Thursday.

The fate of the proposal is anything but certain—will members ratify an agreement that aims to buy their acquiescence on major policy changes like drug testing and oversight? Votes won't be tallied for another couple of weeks.

Among the tradeoffs: The city won the right to randomly test officers for drugs and alcohol; the union fought back an attempt to also test officers for drugs, including steroids, after use-of-force incidents. The city secured the union's nod on a police review board and expanded oversight powers that the city council approved last summer; the union reserved its right to go to court if they believe the Independent Police Review oversteps its investigative powers. The city can now save money by managing how cops use compensatory time off and by awarding lower-than-usual cost-of-living pay raises; the union, in turn, secured a bonus 2 percent salary increase starting in July and a host of other pay bumps depending on whether cops have bachelor's degrees, are physically fit, or work nights.

Still, at least one outcome is clear, This contract will be the last one for the man who has negotiated every one of the union's labor pacts since 1979: attorney Will Aitchison.

That's a fairly big deal. Aitchison, who lectures and has written books about public safety labor law, has been formidable thorn in the city's side for the past three decades years. Amid a parade of union presidents, police chiefs, mayors, and police commissioners, he's remained the steady hand behind the throne, not just negotiating labor pacts but emerging as, perhaps, the biggest reason why city officials have been unable to make it stick when firing a cop off the city's police force. (Yes, Aitchison says, he'll still be arguing for the union in arbitration against the firing of Ron Frashour, the cop who shot and killed Aaron Campbell.)

Replacing Aitchison, union officials say, is Anil Karia, an attorney who works in labor-law giant Mike Tedesco's firm in Lake Oswego. Tedesco's firm also is steeped in navigating the arbitration process—a key battleground for the PPA.

Aitchison, 59, reached while heading to Anchorage, Alaska, where he also works as a police union representative, says he has more books to write.

"There are just too many other things in life for me to be doing right now," he says.