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

City HR Boss: Police Oversight Plan Can't be Implemented Without Union Approval

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This afternoon, the Portland City Council will begin debating a highly publicized plan to boost oversight of the police.

The plan by Commissioner Randy Leonard and Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade is billed as an "emergency" ordinance that would take effect immediately.

But the city's human-resources boss tells WW that parts of the plan are subject to collective bargaining under state law, and can't be implemented without hashing them out with the police union.

That's because changes to police discipline must be bargained with the police union, says Yvonne Deckard, head of the city's Bureau of Human Services.

"The (union) has already put me on notice of their right to bargain, and letting us know that the city can't just unilaterally change how we do discipline. And they're correct about that," Deckard says.

"The bottom line is that until we meet that obligation for the part we have to bargain, we can't implement it," Deckard says. "I'm kind of scrambling to figure out what that means."

Deckard says she didn't find out about the proposed ordinance until last Friday, when the police union brought it to her attention during the start of contract negotiations.

"It was a surprise to me," Deckard says. "I haven't had any dialogue with the city auditor or Commissioner Leonard about this, and like I said, I haven't had any chance to do the analysis that I need to."

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 as well as the power to subpoena officers and commanders.

The ordinance was first circulated last Thursday and is being rushed before Council today over objections from Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who said the council should wait until Police Chief Rosie Sizer returns from a working trip to England.

The ordinance says it should take effect immediately upon council approval.

"The Council declares that an emergency exists because of the Independent Police Review Division's need to quickly implement these reforms," the ordinance says.

But lengthy contract negotiations with the police union — which would be the venue for resolving any sections of the ordinance subject to collective bargaining — started just last week.
 
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