March 31st, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, Cops and Courts

Council Unanimously Approves New Police Oversight Ordinance

City Council considers Portland Police oversight

With a 5-0 vote, City Council tonight approved the new ordinance from Commissioner Randy Leonard and Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade on strengthening police oversight.

That decision followed more than three hours of impassioned public testimony and came after Police Chief Rosie Sizer voiced some objections to details of the measure, including its call to make the city auditor (rather than the auditor and the police chief) responsible for picking citizens to volunteer for the police review board. On that topic, Sizer failed. Commissioner Dan Saltzman introduced an amendment to the ordinance that would have split the responsibility between the two, but the amendment failed.

So did a second amendment Saltzman introduced to help address another of Sizer's concerns -- money. That amendment would have capped the costs to the police bureau for facilitators for the review board under the new proposal. The idea was that after the bureau reached that cap, $10,000 per year, the bureau could ask City Council for help paying for the rest. That too was rejected.

If Saltzman was looking a little sullied by the process, he only had to wait until the end of the marathon session for his rewards.

Leonard, who vowed in January to make police oversight his No. 1 priority for 2010, added more details to the story of how that came to be. Back in January, he told WW he had scheduled a City Council work session on use-of-force issues but cancelled the Jan. 5 meeting after talking to Saltzman. Leonard said tonight that Saltzman gave him the green light to pursue his cause without the work session. "People like to make a lot of my and Dan's differences," Leonard said. "I want to thank Commissioner Saltzman for that offer."

Mayor Sam Adams repeated his praise for Saltzman, too. (But this time he didn't say Portlanders "feel safer than ever," as he did when he explained that Saltzman was his pick for police commissioner.)

Forty-six people signed up to testify tonight. Here are a few:

Jesse Cornett, who is running against Saltzman, gave credit to Leonard for bringing the ordinance to the council. He said other people's "leadership isn't as active as it should be." He also criticized Sizer for voicing concerns about the impact of the ordinance on the police bureau's budget, calling her reasons "shallow."

Greg Kafoury, who has told the city he plans to sue on behalf of the 12-year-old girl whom Portland police shot with a beanbag, testified that Portlanders can easily recite the names of people killed or injured by cops. But who, he asked, can name the officers who've lost their jobs for those acts? "We have to deal with the worst of our officers to make room for the best," he said.

The mother of the girl who was shot by the beanbag in November also testified. She said police officers were supposed to uphold the values of loyalty and integrity. "I did not see the loyalty or integrity when they punched my daughter in the face," she said.

An actual 12-year-old girl testified, too. According to the mayor, the girl was at home watching the hearing on television when she asked her father to take her to City Hall. "I think children and adults should be able to go to the police and feel safe," she said.

The emergency ordinance takes effect in 30 days. At that point the police review board will be able to initiate investigations of possible police misconduct without seeking permission from the police bureau.
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