Update: March 1: This story has been updated to note the ballot title challenge period and next steps.

A new ballot initiative seeks to overhaul and water down a police accountability measure that was approved by a large majority of voters in 2020.

The Portland city auditor’s office has reviewed a proposed ballot measure for inclusion in the November 2024 general election. As written, the measure aims to roll back many of the metrics for police oversight and discipline outlined in the 2020 measure, which passed by 82 percent. That measure sought to shift Portland’s police review and discipline process to one driven by an independent, appointed community board, rather than police.

A proposed measure put forth by William Aitchison, a police and firefighter labor union attorney, would replace the police oversight system currently awaiting implementation with one focused on “recruiting, retaining and training efforts” within the Portland Police Bureau. The new proposed board would still independently investigate and make disciplinary recommendations about sworn PPB officers, but would be limited to reviewing conduct of non-supervisory cops, and wouldn’t have the authority to fire police.

That was a key provision in the 2020 measure. Instead, a new board could make recommendations to city leaders and the police chief. The draft measure also removes language in city code that focuses on policies and practices to address community concerns. 

After voters overwhelmingly approved a new police oversight and discipline system in 2020, the city appointed a Police Accountability Commission (PAC) to draft guidelines, rules and parameters for how the board should work. The group spent nearly two years gathering community feedback and drafting its recommendations

Portland City Council approved the PAC’s recommendations last fall, but recommended changes to the recruitment and onboarding process for board members, while limiting the size of the board. The elements of the new oversight system were approved by the council, but have yet to be negotiated with the police unions.

Currently, the recruitment process aims to include board members with diverse backgrounds, including lived experience of racism, addiction, and/or mental illness. The board also excludes any current or former family members of law enforcement from serving–a policy that garnered pushback from city commissioners and some members of the public last year. Aitchison’s measure appears written to exclude those who are likely to have had negative interactions with police in the past. Instead, it simply asks for people from “various professional backgrounds” and from “different geographic areas within the city” and dictates that board members be briefed on “best practices” for recruiting and retaining police officers. In other words, the new measure would shift the disciplinary process to focus on favoring police, rather than community members impacted by their actions.

The proposed measure also calls for the board to issue an annual report gauging the effectiveness of police recruitment and retention efforts.

Aitchison did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another similar measure pitched by Aitchison proposes using cannabis tax fund revenue to hire more police officers in Portland, while also establishing 24-hour treatment and detox centers, and bolstering street response services to respond to mental health crises.

Neither of the initiatives have been qualified for the November ballot yet. The oversight board ballot measure will remain in a ballot title challenge period until March 12- the deadline for Portland voters to file any legal challenges to the ballot measure's title. The detox center measure will stay in the ballot title challenge period until March 5. 

After ballot titles for both measures are shored up, petitioners will need to collect 40,750 signatures before July 5.