Portland Police Union Files a Grievance Against the City Challenging the Reform Measure That Voters Passed Overwhelmingly

The union is asking the city to “cease and desist” pursuing changes to how officers are investigated and disciplined.

Police respond to rioting in downtown Portland on Nov. 4. (Chris Nesseth)

The Portland Police Association filed a grievance against the city of Portland on Thursday night arguing that Measure 26-217, which passed with overwhelming support on Tuesday, needed to be negotiated with the union before the measure was referred to voters.

"From a legal standpoint, the city's move is fatally flawed. Under Oregon law, the very existence of a disciplinary board must be negotiated with the PPA before being sent to the voters," PPA president Brian Hunzeker said in a statement Thursday night. "From a public policy standpoint, the city has created a new police accountability board that is accountable to no one.…That is terrible public policy. "

On Tuesday night, Portland voters passed Measure 26-217 by 81.6% to 18.3%. The measure, championed by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, will dissolve the city's current police oversight board and establish a new one.

The measure seeks to grant the new board the authority to compel officers to testify if they are under investigation, to discipline or fire officers, and to share officers' names with the public if the board determines they engaged in misconduct.

The grievance, obtained by WW via a public records request, asks the city to "cease and desist from making any changes to existing conditions and past practices regarding the investigation, discipline, and policymaking processes without first reaching agreement with the PPA."

"The city's conduct in seeking to evade its contractual obligations through voter-enacted charter changes is repetitive and egregious," Hunzeker wrote in the grievance. "Indeed, the city is well aware that it cannot escape its bargaining obligations by sending mandatorily negotiable subjects, such as a new disciplinary system for PPA members, to voters for a charter change without first reaching agreement with the PPA over those changes."

Hardesty anticipated this outcome. On election night, she said she anticipated a legal challenge from the PPA, but that she believed the city's attorneys could manage it.

On Thursday night, Mayor Ted Wheeler said the city is ready to defend voters' decision.

"The people of Portland overwhelmingly passed a measure calling for reforms to our police accountability system," Wheeler said. "We all agree change is needed. This measure reflects the will of the people as demonstrated by their votes. The city will actively defend the voters' decision and comply with the charter amendment to meet any bargaining obligations required by law."

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