March 18th, 2010 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, Cops and Courts

UPDATED: City Council Hears Testimony on Leonard's Police Oversight Ordinance

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The City Council this afternoon heard testimony from dozens of fired-up Portlanders urging immediate action on a proposed ordinance to boost oversight of the Portland Police Bureau.

"Please, listen to the people," said Ursula Anderson of Northeast Portland. "You have the power to make a decision today. You have the authority— we voted for you. Make a decision today."

Coming on the heels of the fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell, the ordinance broadly increases the powers of City Hall's Independent Police Review Division — giving it oversight of the police bureau's most contentious internal investigations.

City Commissioner Randy Leonard — who brought the ordinance together with Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade — started the hearing at 2 pm by excoriating the police bureau for past use-of-force cases and what Leonard characterized as a strong aversion to independent oversight.

"Everyone should have reached by now in the Portland community the conclusion that something is missing in the police bureau," Leonard said. "That has led to serious consequences."

Leonard pointed to a story posted today at wweek.com as evidence that the police bureau intends to strongly oppose the ordinance. Leonard said that's the reason he didn't make the ordinance public until late last week.

Both floors of the council chambers were filled at the start of the hearing with people holding signs saying "Portland community for police reform" and "Police accountability now."

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Mayor Sam Adams said he supports the resolution. But he asked several questions of Griffin-Valade and IPR Director Mary-Beth Baptista, including how progress could be measured.

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Griffin-Valade (above, center) told the Council she became committed to increasing police oversight after media reports about use of force.

"I can no longer say this will not happen on my watch," Griffin-Valade said. "What I will say (instead) is, never again. Never again."

UPDATE 4:30 pm

In a surprise, the Council just heard from Will Aitchison, attorney for the police union.

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Aitchison said cops have faced numerous surprise broadsides from the City Council in recent weeks — from the current proposal, to asking a judge to release the grand-jury testimony from the Campbell case, to arming water-bureau security.

"There is a common thread through all of those," Aitchison said. "Not one of those actions was preceded by dialogue with your employees, the Portland Police Association."

"What we are asking, mayor, is that you involve us in the process before you move down a road that is precipitous," Aitchison continued. "You are the leaders of the whole community, and you are the leaders of the work force."

Aitchison's remarks were met with boos and thumbs-down from the audience.

UPDATE 5:30 pm

Leonard says in order to allow the Portland Human Rights Commission a chance to review the ordinance and create a more "united" City Council, he's moving to continue the hearing two weeks from tonight, on March 31.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz says she also wants to hear from Police Chief Rosie Sizer.

Commissioner Nick Fish calls Leonard's ordinance "an act of statesmanship" and urges the need for City Council to come together "with one voice."

"The chance for more voices to be heard will not only allow the Council to come together," Fish says, "but ensure this work will be even stronger."

The only silent commissioner: Dan Saltzman, who is in charge of police.

See you in two weeks.
 
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