Portland police union contract offers retention bonuses, more accountability

By Jonathan Levinson (OPB)
Feb. 9, 2022 1:12 a.m.

Attorneys for the city of Portland appear to have notched some key victories in contract negotiations with the Portland Police Association. The tentative union agreement, which was released Tuesday, comes after more than a year of negotiations and includes the police bureau’s discipline guide as well as references to a new community oversight board.

The contract, which is still pending final approval from each side, also covers officer salaries, bonuses for employee retention and a compromise on expanding Portland Street Response.


From the start, city negotiators sought to avoid getting into specifics of the community oversight board passed by voters in November 2020. When negotiations kicked off in January 2021, the union was still hoping to fight the board’s implementation, insisting that city leaders had misled voters.

But after months of closed-door mediation, negotiators have released a contract that has multiple references to the oversight board, which is still in its conceptual phase and likely years away from launching.

A Portland Police Bureau officer with his hand lifted towards his face.

A file photo of officer with the Portland Police Bureau attending the National Night Out in Maywood Park, Ore., on Saturday, July 27, 2019.

Bryan M. Vance / OPB

The city also negotiated adding the Portland Police Bureau’s discipline guide into the contract. The guide outlines how the chief of police determines consequences for officer misconduct, ranging from tardiness to felony convictions and public corruption. Until now, the guide had existed as an advisory document outside of the collective bargaining agreement, a status quo the union appeared uninterested in changing early in bargaining.

The arrangement posed a problem for Portland, however, under a state law passed in 2020. That law limits the changes arbitrators’ can make when reviewing police disciplinary decisions, but only if the agency was following a discipline guide agreed to in its union contract.

With the discipline guide in the contract, Portland’s decisions to discipline officers may have more teeth..

Increased officer pay


The previous contract technically ran through June 2020, but negotiations were paused due to the pandemic. As that contract was expiring, large swaths of the country rose up against police violence and histories of racist policing. When street protests turned to talk of policy solutions, the outsized influence police unions across the country wield in protecting officers from accountability was a recurring theme.

That political climate during early negotiations may have given the city a boost in its bargaining position, but Portland’s police union didn’t come away empty handed.

To address retention, officers who are still employed during the first pay period after the contract is ratified will receive a $5,000 bonus. Officers who are still employed in January 2024 will get an additional $2,000 bonus Non-sworn public safety specialists, who are unarmed police bureau employees assigned to respond to low level calls, will receive a one-time, $3,000 bonus when the contract is ratified. The contract also includes a $5,000 hiring bonus to help bring in officers at a time when the bureau is significantly understaffed from its allotted positions.

To encourage education, premium pay was raised to 3% for officers with a bachelor’s degree, and a 5% premium was added for officers with a master’s or doctorate.

The city had hoped to claw back some control over officers’ outside employment. Currently, private businesses can hire police officers to work as security, lucrative work which is managed by the police association. The city proposed limiting that work to community and civic events, such as professional sports venues, and wanted to bring the assignments under police bureau control.

The new contract keeps the original arrangement in place, meaning the union will continue to oversee officers’ outside employment working security for private business.

Unresolved issue

The contract doesn’t address body camera policies, an issue that proved too sticky even after seven months of mediation. At issue are questions revolving around whether officers can view their footage before or after writing use of force reports.

Union officials have argued officers should be able to look at footage from body cameras before writing reports to accurately reflect events, but police accountability advocates and the U.S. Department of Justice say the best practice is for officers to write a report and then review footage. By doing so, the Department of Justice said, initial reports are more likely to capture an officer’s perception during interactions with community members, especially when force is used.

The city and union said they plan to continue negotiating those details and hope to resolve them in the future.

Before it takes effect, a majority of Portland Police Association members must vote to ratify the contract and Portland City Council must vote to approve it. City Council will hear public testimony on the contract Feb. 17 and will vote on it Feb. 24.