Two days after Portland voters overwhelmingly approved a new police oversight board, the union representing rank and file Portland police officers filed a grievance with the Portland Police Bureau to stop it from taking effect. The grievance is the first step to the Portland Police Association’s promised challenge to the new board.
“The City unilaterally changed standards of employment related to mandatorily negotiable working conditions without first reaching agreement with the PPA, in violation of Article 3,” the grievance reads. “The City is well-aware that it cannot escape its bargaining obligations by sending mandatorily negotiable subjects, such as a new disciplinary system for PPA members, to voters for a Charter change without first reaching agreement with the PPA over those changes.”
Measure 26-217 amends the city charter to create an independent police oversight board empowered to discipline and even fire officers, a power currently reserved for the police commissioner, and the major sticking point for the union.
In the grievance, which was sent to Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis by newly elected PPA president Brian Hunzeker, the officer’s union is requesting the city cease implementing changes to oversight and discipline without first coming to an agreement.
Voters approved the measure following months of racial justice protests in the city where police have used significant force to break up demonstrations. Many complaints about officer conduct at those protests are currently under review.
In a statement Thursday night, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who narrowly won a second term in office this week, said the measure reflects the will of the people.
“The City will actively defend the voters' decision and comply with the Charter Amendment to meet any bargaining obligations required by law,” Wheeler said.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who fought to get the measure on the ballot, acknowledged that to fully realize her goal of transparent and effective police oversight, state laws and the union contract will both have to be changed.
“We must change the arbitration rules in Salem so that it will allow for the community oversight board’s decisions to be final,” Hardesty said, hours after the measure passed. “It puts us in an excellent position on Jan. 17 when we start negotiating the new Portland Police Association contract.”