Portland police responding to a 2020 protest.
Portland police responding to a 2020 protest. MATHIEU LEWIS-ROLLAND

At the last public bargaining session between the city of Portland and the Portland Police Association (PPA)—the union representing rank-and-file Portland cops—city attorneys hinted at a proposal that would restructure the current discipline guide followed by Portland Police Bureau (PPB) leadership. Now, with those contract negotiations continuing to play out in private, we have a clearer idea of what the city's suggested disciplinary framework for rule-breaking police would look like.

July 28 marked the first mediated meeting between the PPA and city after both agreed to move their contract negotiations behind closed doors. Per state labor law, parties engaged in contract negotiations can request the discussion be overseen by a state-selected mediator after 150 days of collective bargaining. After passing that mark on June 12, PPA requested mediation. Thus, the rest of the contract negotiation conversations between the city and its police union will be private.

During the July 28 meeting, the city introduced a number of proposals—which serve as amendments to the current contract's text—including one that outlined the details of a new discipline guide.

The new guide, which the Mercury obtained through a public records request, clarifies which officer actions will prompt immediate termination from PPB, and introduces a new path of rehabilitation for officers who violate minor PPB policies.

Compared to the current guide, which was established in 2014, the proposed policy offers more flexibility in which types of discipline officers are stuck with. That's because the new framework allows management to lessen or worsen punishment on a sliding scale if the violation checks certain boxes. The policy defines those as "mitigating" or "aggravating" circumstances.

For instance, if an officer caused "major foreseeable property damage," they could be penalized with 40 hours of suspension without pay. But if the officer attempted to cover up their actions or did not accept responsibility for them—they could be fired. If, in the same situation, the officer accepted responsibility for the property damage and their record showed no prior PPB rule violations, they could simply be required to complete a few community service hours—avoiding an unpaid suspension entirely.

Another proposed update to the current guide: Officers could reduce any required unpaid suspension time by a fourth if they participate in certain educational activities. The city's proposal notes those activities can include "training courses, independent study, or community service related to the violation."

In the June 2 bargaining session that previewed this proposal, PPB characterized these updates as "restorative" for officers.

"The whole idea is to try to avoid some of the damage we’ve seen done to employees in the discipline process," said PPB Deputy Chief Chris Davis at the time. "The idea is that when someone violates a policy they’re held accountable, but they’re also brought back into the community."

The discipline guide's admittedly wonky framework plays an important role in PPB's future. This guide will be used by the members of Portland's future police accountability board to impose discipline—a privilege currently reserved for the chief of police and police commissioner.

PPA has not offered a counter-proposal to the city's suggested discipline guide.

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As for the contract negotiation process: The city and PPA are required to engage in mediation for at least 15 days before the process can be forced into arbitration by either party. The 15-day period began on July 30.

Peep the city's proposed discipline guide below:

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