A new contract with the Portland police union
The City of Portland and the Portland Police Association announced yesterday that they’ve negotiated a new contract. Both parties seem pleased with their agreement, which means that the average Portland resident has cause for concern. City commissioners will hear public comment during three upcoming events:
- an information session hosted by the city’s lead negotiator and a member of the city attorney’s office tomorrow, Thursday, February 10
- a city council hearing on February 17
- the final vote at a city council meeting on February 24
Portland residents should certainly take these opportunities to voice concerns. However, given the vocal support the contract has already received from Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler (who also holds the position of mayor), Commissioner Mingus Mapps, and Commissioner Dan Ryan, the City of Portland will likely ratify the contract as it stands. Three commissioners constitute a majority for Portland’s tiny city council. PPA’s membership will vote on the contract, likely later today.
The contract and documentation on the negotiation process is pretty hard to follow, but Alex Zielinski has written a break-down of what’s in the contract worth reading. The shortest summary is that little has changed in the expectations that the City of Portland has for its police officers. The new contract is based on the previous contract and contains similar flaws. Most community requests for changing how the Portland Police Bureau operates, including feedback gathered by Wheeler and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty at listening sessions in 2019, did not affect negotiations. Negotiations were also conducted through closed-door mediation, meaning that this week is the first time Portland residents are learning about the contents of the new contract.
The timing of this new contract drives home the power of the police union in so many different ways:
- Today is the fifth anniversary of the murder of 17-year-old Quanice Hayes by Portland Police Officer Andrew Hearst. Over the past five years, the City of Portland attempted to blame Hayes and his family for Hayes’ death, failed to discipline Hearst in any way, and ultimately paid over $2 million to Hayes’ family to end a lawsuit without admitting blame.
- Less than a month ago, the City of Portland released PPB training materials that include White supremacist memes. The materials also instructed officers to target protestors carrying cameras and used images of people of color exclusively to depict PPB’s opponents.
- Just before those materials became available, the quarterly Compliance Officer and Community Liaison report was released. This report is required by the U.S. Department of Justice’s consent decree against the Portland Police Bureau. It stated that the City of Portland and PPB remain out of compliance with the decree. One of the main concerns listed by the report was the City of Portland’s complete failure to hold officers accountable for violence towards protestors. Lawyers from the DOJ chastised both the City Attorney’s office and PPB for failing to turn over the above-mentioned training materials previously, as required by the settlement.
- Portland City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero announced that the city auditor’s office was refusing to manage the new Independent Police Review board passed by voters in 2020 due to the city council’s failure to budget for adequate staffing. Hull Caballero also made clear that the new IPR board will not be functional before 2025, despite city commissioners previously suggesting the board would be up and running in late 2022.
- The City of Portland is currently lobbying the Oregon State Legislature to remove recently enacted constraints on police use of chemical weapons, munitions, and other violent tactics against protestors. House Bill 4131, if passed, would once again legalize the strategies that the DOJ pointed to as one of the reasons PPB failed its most recent compliance review.
- Members of other unions with City of Portland contracts are scheduled to go on strike starting tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. over a cost-of-living increase that would not even keep up with inflation. The City of Portland has offered those workers a 5% pay raise and a one-time payment of $3,000. In comparison, under their new contract, PPB officers will receive an immediate bonus of $5,000 plus another bonus of $2,000 in 2024, as well as multiple raise increases based on specific skills and certifications ranging from 2 to 5% which appear to be stackable. Police officers are already among the highest paid City of Portland employees, with some officers earning six figures annually just from their overtime.
These examples are just that — examples of the problems with Portland’s police force. There are far more, from PPB and PPA’s targeting of a city commissioner to a recent evaluation of political and racial biases within the bureau. Covering them all would require more than a digest.
The new contract between PPA and the City of Portland is nothing more than a stamp of approval on the violent behavior of the Portland Police Bureau without guaranteeing even basic levels of service for Portland residents. It is guaranteed to cost the city far more than just what is budgeted in terms of salary increases — the contract essentially guarantees that the city will face more lawsuits from PPB’s victims as well as the expense of dealing with the DOJ’s settlement for years to come. And it is guaranteed this contract will cost the residents of Portland more abuse, more violence, and more lives.