Portland Police Association Warns City Council New Police Oversight Proposal Is Illegal

The council is scheduled to consider referring Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s reform proposal to the November ballot.

Portland police officers at a June protest. (Wesley Lapointe)

On July 29, the Portland City Council will consider an ordinance proposed by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty that would refer a charter change creating a new police oversight agency to the November ballot.

As WW reported last week, Hardesty proposes the formation of a new entity that would have greater access to police records; the ability to question officers directly; the authority to investigate fatal incidents; and a budget equal to 5% of the Portland Police Bureau's budget. In all those areas, the proposed agency would have more authority than the city's current oversight agency, the city auditor's Independent Police Review.

Today, the Portland Police Association, the union that represents more than 900 officers, detectives and sergeants, weighed in with objections to Hardesty's proposal.

In a five-page letter to the four City Council members and City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero, PPA president Daryl Turner said the proposal "is neither good public policy nor in the best interest of the citizens of Portland."

The PPA, which bills itself as the longest continuously operating police union in the country, has long excelled in looking out for its members' interests.

For Nearly 80 Years, the Portland Police Association Has Wielded Power in a Town That Doesn't Like Cops. That Power Is Now Under Siege.

Turner offered four critiques of Hardesty's proposal. He says it:

1. Would violate the law in at least four separate ways;

2. Would establish an "oversight board" outside the budgetary rules and other supervision of the City Council, the auditor or any of the city's bureaus;

3. Is a carelessly drafted proposal that raises more questions than it answers; and

4. Was hastily crafted without the input of any of the meaningful stakeholders concerned about police oversight.

Hull Caballero, the auditor who oversees IPR, has expressed concerns about Hardesty's proposal as well, cautioning that the City Council and the public must better understand the impediments that stand in the way of the current oversight system before trying to create a new one.

Turner, who is more than capable of using rhetorical tear gas—as in 2018, when he called downtown Portland a "cesspool"— today struck a more measured tone, perhaps a nod to the intense public scrutiny of his members and the U.S. approach to policing in general.

"We find ourselves at a crossroads where the public demands thoughtful public policy that will improve policing practices, accountability, and public safety," he wrote. "The proposed charter amendment does none of these things. We urge you to reject it and to begin cooperative, not unilateral, discussions with all stakeholders on the important issue of public safety and accountability."

Mayor Ted Wheeler, who oversees the Police Bureau, declined to comment on Turner's letter. Hull Caballero also declined to comment but will hold a 1 pm press conference on Tuesday to discuss Hardesty's proposal. Hardesty did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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