Portland police union and city reach tentative agreement on contract

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A liaison officer with the Portland Police Bureau in Portland on August 17, 2019.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

After more than a year of negotiations, the City of Portland and the Portland Police Association have reached an interim collective bargaining agreement, according to a statement released Friday by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Contract details are expected to be announced next week, according to the statement.

After suspending negotiations in February 2020 due to the pandemic, the two sides returned to the virtual negotiating table in January 2021. Over the course of five months and 11 sessions, they reached agreements on details such as the removed references to outdated IT systems from the contract, rewrite sections to include the office’s new unarmed “public safety support specialists”, and make changes to how officers are paid when working in a position typically reserved for a senior officer.

After 150 days of partially public negotiations, the union opted to conduct the negotiations behind closed doors, and that is where they have remained ever since. Away from the public eye, city officials and the union grappled with some of the more contentious issues, such as the limits the city wanted to place on outside employment of officers, revisions to the discipline guide and policies that will still regulate -body-worn camera system to be implemented.

The disciplinary guide was an important step in ensuring that police bureau officials and city leaders can effectively hold officers accountable. The current guide is not included in the union contract, which effectively overturned a 2020 state law limiting an arbitrator’s leeway to change how officers were disciplined. This law requires arbitrators reviewing decisions to rely on departmental disciplinary guides, but only to the extent those guides were agreed to during negotiations.

On at least one of the key issues in the negotiations — policies on body cameras — Portland and police union negotiators opted to reach an agreement, saying talks would continue.

The police union has pushed for a policy known as pre-review, which would allow officers to review body camera footage before writing use of force reports. Police accountability watchdogs and the US Department of Justice have pushed for policies to require officers to write their reports first and, if necessary, provide additional statements after viewing the footage.

The city council will hear public testimony on the deal on February 17 and is expected to vote on it on February 24.

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