Throughout monthslong contract negotiations, it’s not unusual for the City Attorney’s Office and the Portland Police Association to disagree over pressing policy issues like disciplinary processes and internal affairs investigations.
But during their ninth collective bargaining session on May 5, the parties found a new sticking point: secure, off-street parking for officers who work at the Portland Police Bureau’s Central Precinct.
In its March 24 contract change proposal, obtained by WW, the PPA made the following request: “The City shall provide all officers with secure, off-street parking within a reasonable distance of the location of their assignment at no cost to the officer.”
During the bargaining session Wednesday afternoon, the city swiftly declined that proposal.
“The proposal as provided is really just an unaffordable cost, both in economics as well as being able to provide it equitably to all the various employees that have the same problem,” said Steven Schuback, a labor lawyer hired by the city. “So at this time, respectfully, we decline the union’s proposal.”
That sparked heated discussion from PPA, which argued that officers at the Central Precinct downtown face threats to their physical safety as they walk from their vehicles into work (the union noted that the North and East precincts already have secure parking). The union argued Wednesday that Central Precinct officers have to either pay a large daily fee of about $20 to park in a nearby garage, or park on the east side of the river, followed by a bus ride or walk across the Hawthorne Bridge.
“It’s a huge officer safety issue,” said PPA executive director Daryl Turner. “You have the courthouses and the jail down there right where officers are getting off work every day or during the night. Obviously, there’s a safety issue involved with that. If somebody wants to harm an officer in any way, shape or form, they’re right downtown.”
The union suggested designating PPB-specific parking spaces in a garage at Southwest 1st Avenue and Jefferson Street. The city then claimed that all of those parking spots are either full or not available. The city then suggested reimbursing officers for parking in nearby garages, but the PPA appeared uninterested in that offer.
Another PPA member who didn’t identify himself said officers sometimes walk long distances at night from the precinct to their vehicles while carrying a duffel bag full of training equipment like a bulletproof vest and a gun belt. He added that, while walking alone, officers might encounter someone they had a dispute with or previously arrested.
“And then now you’re meeting them under a bridge at 3 in the morning,” he said.
City Attorney Heidi Brown said the safety issue being raised was a bit unclear to her, but that she recognizes incidents from “last year”—possibly in reference to downtown protests.
“It isn’t just last year,” Turner said. “Officers have been attacked before coming out of the precinct in prior years.” He added that officers working at the Central Precinct have had their cars prowled upon and broken into.
After about 20 minutes of back-and-forth, with no consensus in sight, the parties agreed to table the discussion for a future bargaining session.