In a split with the Multnomah County district attorney, two Portland city council members say the city can compel police officers involved in shootings to talk with investigators immediately afterward. 

Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Nick Fish plan to introduce a new ordinance Wednesday that asserts the city’s right to interview officers promptly after deadly shootings. They want to direct the Portland Police Bureau to make it policy. 

The compelled statements would not be part of a criminal investigation. They would be used in the administrative process to review whether an officer violated his job training and should be fired or disciplined. 

Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill has said that an Oregon court case suggests that officers who are compelled to testify in an internal affairs investigation can demand immunity from criminal prosecution. He wants the police bureau to delay their investigations until he’s finished his review. That’s counter to a compromise reached between the police officer union and city negotiators last year during contract talks to eliminate a rule that allowed officers to wait at least 48 hours after a deadly force incident before being interviewed by internal affairs.

Portland’s City Council heard public testimony on the issue last week. Fish says testimony from the ACLU and the Lawyer’s Guild convinced him and the mayor to take a different approach. 

The Portland Mercury has published a draft copy of the new ordinance. 

It states that the city will keep its internal investigations of officers wholly separate from any criminal investigation. 

But the new ordinance also acknowledges that the law on compelled testimony in Oregon isn’t clear. And it gives the police bureau the leeway to delay their internal investigations until after any criminal investigation is done, on a case by case basis. 

Also in response to last week’s public testimony, the mayor has decided to delay a vote on a plan to create a new civilian oversight board for the bureau.