Portland police officers have never loved a union contract like they love the one Portland CIty Council took up this morning.
According to Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner, the union's membership ratified the contract terms with more than 95 percent last night. Not only that, but 91 percent of the union's membership showed up to show that resounding approval.
"Another record," Turner said this morning. "Our members are engaged."
It shouldn't be much surprise then, that the community groups who've called for increased police accountability for years are equally engaged.
At an abbreviated hearing this morning—set to continue this afternoon—representatives from Portland Copwatch, Don't Shoot PDX, the NAACP, the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform the Oregon ACLU, and more all urged city council to hold off on inking a new deal with the cops.
That deal would give PPA members a 9 percent raise over three-years, offer better starting pay to new officers, provide for potential student loan reimbursement, give cops finders' fees if they can bring in new officers, and more.
In exchange, the police union would settle one grievance filed against the city, drop 11 more, and do away with the much-despised 48-hour rule that gives cops two days' notice before they have to speak with an internal investigator after they've shot someone.
There have been cries for years for police to be rid of the 48-hour rule. But to every person who testified before council this morning, the agreement isn't enough. Person after person who sat down to address council argued the contract should have more muscular oversight requirements for the city's Independent Police Review, should include mandatory training on police bias, and needed to leave the police body camera policy being crafted by the city completely free of mandatory bargaining.
Mostly, the testifiers are calling on Hales to pull back on a deal he's been crowing about for two weeks.
"Where's the fire?" asked Jo Ann Hardesty, president of a Portland chapter of the NAACP and a long-time watcher of city policing policy.
Dan Handelman, of Portland Copwatch, said the city was on the verge of "giving way to the financial demands" of the police union.
Kimberly McCullough, legislative director at the Oregon ACLU, raised concerns about a draft police rule [PDF] on body cameras that's been contemplated alongside the new contract.
"Apparently there were six community forums [on body camera policy]," McCullough said. "I only heard about three. I have searched the internet far and wide and can't fine evidence anywhere of the other three. I don't think those forums were sufficient."
Among McCullough's problems with the proposed policy: A provision that would allow cops to review body camera footage before writing incident reports in most cases. That wouldn't happen if an officer used deadly force, but McCullough says it still leaves an opening for potential abuse.
"Officers should write a report prior to viewing the footage," she said. "They can then view the footage afterward and make clarifications."
The proposed contract was crafted as Portland faces a worsening police shortage (along with a reduction in major crimes), even as the police bureau labors under a settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice. Mayor Charlie Hales, the city's police commissioner and the agreement's lead booster, says the higher pay rate—along with a provision that lets just-retired cops come back to work for the bureau—will allow the bureau to hold steady.
The deal is anticipated to sap $6.6 million from the city's general fund once the full raises kick in, Human Resources Director Anna Kanwit said this morning (that estimate is lower than a former $6.8 million prediction). But as we've reported, it would also cost millions more each year in increased retirement and disability pay for cops.
And according to Turner, the union president, the contract already having an effect. He says officers have come to him in the last week to say they're staying with the bureau (remember, their higher salaries will result in higher pension payments).
"They were finished, and now they’re going to stay," Turner said.
City Council is scheduled to resume the hearing at 1:30 pm, and Hales appears resolute about the deal in the face of all the negativity. He tells the Mercury he's been keeping Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler in the loop about the deal, and has "no indication" Wheeler doesn't want the deal to move forward. Activists have called on Hales to push back a deal until Wheeler takes office.
As to demands that Hales fight for more muscular police oversight provisions in a new contract, he hinted that such a move could stall contract negotiations entirely.
"This is not a mandate," he said. "This is a negotiation."
Update: People really dislike this police contract. Of dozens who signed up to comment publicly on the agreement, not one spoke in support.
Responding to the concerns he'd heard all morning, Hales introduced an amendment to the city's body camera policy process that would create a stakeholder committee to pick apart the policy and suggest changes.
But Hales' amendment, clearly aimed at reducing concern, only further aggravated the audience, which saw it as evidence that change was easier than officials have let on. Hales wound up shutting down the meeting after a profanity laced tirade from frequent council testifier David "Kif" Davis, but reconvened council within a half hour.
And when it was all said and done? The contract opponents found themselves with more time. Hales made clear he wouldn't hold a vote on the contract ratification and body camera directive next week, as he certainly would have without the outcry. Instead, the mayor says next week will be used to "consider amendments and talk to staff."
"Council needs time to confer on the testimony we've heard today," he said. It's unclear whether any further public commentary will be considered.