The city's police union has agreed to pull its official opposition to the settlement agreement struck between the bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice over mental health and use of force reforms.

In a press conference this afternoon at City Hall, officials announced that the Portland Police Association will withdraw its grievance against the DOJ settlement. The settlement was forged last fall following an 18-month investigation of the department by the DOJ that resulted in a scathing report that found the city's police have a pattern and practice of using excessive force against the mentally ill.

The DOJ settlement requires a number of changes, including to use of force and the creation of a mental health unit within the PPB. The union objected to the changes, saying some of them were mandatory subjects of bargaining.

The memorandum of understanding announced today resolves most of the PPA's objections and cements most of the changes, but also leaves several major reforms in the air.

The union will keep bargaining rights for two critical areas:

  • Any changes to on-scene public safety interviews and interviews for officers involved in force events, better known as the 48-hour rule. It’s a rule negotiated in the city’s labor contract with its police that allows officers involved in a shooting or in-custody death to decline to talk to bureau investigators for 48 hours while they confer with union lawyers. Mayor Charlie Hales told WW during his campaign this change was important to him but it would have to be part of the bargaining process. He says in today's cover story that he doesn't think he can do it. “It’s unclear how we’re going to get there,” he said. (Officials also announced at today's press conference that the city and the union have reached a tentative agreement on the police union's contract. No details were released, but changes to the 48-hour rule are not included).
  • The union also still gets to bargain over any changes to the requirement that the city to "streamline its administrative investigations and enable meaningful and independent investigation by the (Independent Police Review division of the City Auditor's office)." The agreement notes the city and the auditor are working on code changes to let IPR investigators directly interview cops under investigation, but those changes are far from certain. Hales put off the changes until at least December, drawing the ire of Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade.

Still, Hales heralded the agreement today as "a day some people wondered if it would ever come."

"The clouds have parted and all of us have agreed on a way to move forward on the DOJ settlement."

PPA President Daryl Turner, U.S. Attorney for Oregon Amanda Marshall, Police Chief Mike Reese and a representative from the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform also spoke.

Marshall said after the laudatory press conference that it is "far from smooth sailing ahead." The city must make the changes, union bargaining or no, she says. If not, the DOJ will have to intervene once again.

"Unless it was specifically outlined in (the DOJ) agreement," Marshall says. "They left it open ended."