Portland's Police union and the city may be drawing near to reviving something the bureau hasn't had in more than 20 years: performance reviews.
The first public contract talks were this morning, and while Portland Police Association representatives mostly skipped around to the more arcane and sleep-inducing portions of the contract—cutting a few weeks out of the grievance process, for example—the topic of quarterly performance reviews also sneaked its way into the 3.5 hour meeting.
Performance reviews were once done, PPA counsel Anil Karia said during the talks, but they were discontinued sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
The union and the city started talking about reviving them last summer under former Mayor Sam Adams, and while they came close, they didn't quite make it. Now, the topic is up for bargaining, and the PPA outlined its proposal.
A member's direct supervisor (ie: a sergeant would review his team of officers, while a lieutenant would conduct reviews on sergeants) would perform a review every three months, noting both successes and failures. The reviews would look at a range of criteria, including: conduct, professionalism, ethics and integrity, relationships with the public, community policing, communication, adaptability and more.
However, the reviews, the PPA proposed, could not be used as a basis for promotion, discipline or transfers. The union did say later that if two officers up for promotion were viewed as equal, their performance reviews could be used as a tiebreaker. The union also asked that any complaint or problem that an officer was exonerated of be removed from reviews.
Sergeants at the bargaining table say that they like the idea, but also told the city that it will mean more work for supervisors. Sgt. Jeff Niiya says that sergeants mostly go on the high-level emergency calls with patrol officers, but not often on routine calls. Niiya added he's been with the Portland Police Bureau for 16 years and has never had a review.
"Right now, our mindset is big, big calls," Niiya says. "It's going to take a good amount of time, and we're going to have to remove ourselves from other duties we have daily."
City Hall officials under Mayor Charlie Hales have also said that bringing back performance reviews are critical to holding officers accountable, and also to possibly create a paper trail for any arbitration cases involving officer discipline.
Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman, who also attended the public meeting, says he's concerned about the stipulation that complaints may be erased from record.
"If a cop keeps getting accused of the same things over and over and then exonerated, that should be included," he says. "That could be a pattern."
The meeting banned observers from using any type of electronics, including taking notes on a laptop, same as the rules set during public negotiations in 2010. The city and the union also set three more negotiation dates: two private sessions at the PPA headquarters on Sept. 19 and Oct. 24, and one public meeting on city property for Oct. 3.