THE LAST TIME the city's Independent Police Review (IPR) Division sought some modest code changes meant to help untangle a police oversight system faulted by the feds as "byzantine" and "self-defeating," a donnybrook ensued.
At a tense hearing in October, Police Chief Mike Reese joined the leaders of the city's two police unions in spending several minutes decrying the IPR proposal as unworkable and potentially dangerous.
Mayor Charlie Hales deferred to the chief and held off on a vote. Other critics, including Commissioner Amanda Fritz, wondered why IPR hadn't done even more to talk to community groups—many of which thought the reforms were too tepid.
Stunned by it all, the IPR's director, Constantin Severe, went back to work with his boss, City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade, on some tweaks meant to make at least a few more of those detractors happy.
Those revised proposals are now due back before council on Wednesday, December 18. But it's still not clear if peace will reign.
The revisions, largely technical, appear to solve most of Reese's concerns. IPR investigators would still be able to directly compel officers to testify—but they would be doing so under the police bureau's authority, not their own.
Reese would still have to explain some of his discipline decisions—but only when they veer from what's recommended in a new "discipline matrix" the city and the Portland Police Association just tentatively agreed to use.
Reese's spokesman says his boss will "probably" support the changes—a shift that suggests IPR budged just enough to let the police chief save face.
Bigger problems, instead, could be looming with city commissioners.
Hales' staff met with Severe and Griffin-Valade last month to talk up the progress of the revisions. They even saw a draft earlier in December.
All the same, a spokesman for Hales said the mayor still felt a bit rushed.
"We would have liked more time to do that, and to fully vet this with everyone—the media, [police accountability advocates], everyone," Dana Haynes says. "But now that we have it, we'll examine it."
But that's nothing compared to Fritz's remaining ambivalence. She took to Twitter on Friday, December 13, with gruff complaints that IPR didn't do enough outreach and wasn't willing to entertain any other changes.
She told me her office wasn't given any updates after the October hearing—just an emailed copy of the final proposal last week. After her complaints circulated, Severe called her for a meeting on Monday, December 16.
Though IPR has aired its thoughts in several public meetings since January, Fritz drew a distinction.
"Public involvement is we hold a meeting, and we tell you what we want to do," she says. "Community engagement is we have a conversation and we get you engaged in what you think we should do."
Getting a unanimous vote is a big deal for IPR. It's a show of strength. That may not happen this year. Fritz wants to wait.
"To attempt to make changes the week before Christmas," she says, "when everybody's not entirely focused, is probably not a good idea."