The city of Portland and the Portland Police Association announced Friday afternoon they had reached a deal on their collective bargaining agreement following more than six months of closed-door mediation.
“The city and Portland Police Association negotiators are happy to announce that they have reached a tentative agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement,” the parties said in a joint statement. “This tentative agreement is an investment in accountable and forward-thinking policing and includes the ability for Portland Street Response to move forward and provides for a new discipline guide.”
The parties have not yet released a copy of the new union contract. They plan to publish it on the Rethink Portland website by Tuesday, Feb. 8.
In about two weeks, on Feb. 17, the agreement will be brought to the Portland City Council for public testimony, according to the joint statement. The following week, Feb. 24, the council is expected to vote on the ordinance.
Throughout the bargaining process, the city posted updated tentative agreements for various articles of the contract online. But some of the most contentious issues were unresolved, including those relating to officer discipline, body-worn cameras and Portland Street Response. The latter two topics have also been subjects of mediation between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice in recent months.
And one of them remains unresolved: The city and police union haven’t reached consensus on the rules for body-worn cameras.
As WW first reported, the PPA proposed implementing body-worn cameras back in April during a closed-door bargaining session with the city. The parties announced Friday that the contract “does not include a body-worn camera policy which will continue to be negotiated by the parties.”
Another key issue highlighted in today’s joint statement is Portland Street Response, the team that can respond in lieu of police to some mental health crisis calls. In the fall, the City Council voted unanimously to approve a citywide expansion of PSR, which is slated to launch next month following a yearlong pilot program that was limited to the greater Lents area in outer Southeast Portland.
But what, precisely, PSR’s role will look like has not been established publicly. For example, both Portland Street Response and the U.S. DOJ want PSR to respond to suicide calls, but it remains unclear whether the union agreed to that proposal.
And in the summer, the union vetoed PSR’s request to respond to indoor, private spaces. Currently, PSR’s team of paramedics and licensed mental health clinicians are limited to calls that are located either outside or in a “publicly accessible space such as a business, store, public lobby.”
Most of the contract negotiation meetings between the city and the PPA have happened behind closed doors. But Portlanders could still learn what transpired during those conversations.
During a press conference in November, Mayor Ted Wheeler committed to a post-mortem discussion of the contract negotiations. He also pledged that he and members of the city’s legal team would be in attendance.
“Personally, I would have liked all of those discussions to be transparent to the public, and we will have an opportunity as we get to the end of those negotiations to have a public vetting of what happened behind closed doors,” Wheeler said Nov. 3. “I plan to be there, and others from the legal team plan to be there. But while those negotiations are going on, I have to adhere to the rules that were established by the involved parties.”
“You can’t build trust in policing if you don’t have accountability and transparency in policing,” Wheeler added. “The public needs to know what’s going on; they need to see the sausage-making.”
In its announcement today, the city said it would host a public question-and-answer-session on Feb. 10, led by city negotiators Steven Schuback and chief deputy city attorney Heidi Brown. The city says it will post sign-up information for the event on the Rethink Portland website. It is unclear if Wheeler plans to attend.
While the contract does not include a body-worn camera policy, the implementation of body cameras for the Portland Police Bureau is all but certain.
Next week, on Feb. 9, the City Council will vote whether to authorize the competitive solicitation process for buying the devices. That vote picks up where the fall budget monitoring process left off in November, when the City Council voted to adopt Wheeler’s proposal to spend $2.6 million on more than 600 body-worn cameras.
But during a City Council session last month, community members urged the commissioners to pause the procurement process until the city had more clearly established the body-worn camera policy by which PPB officers must abide. It is likely that those details will be ironed out at a later date by the City Council, the U.S. DOJ and, potentially, the PPA.
The previous iteration of the PPA’s collective bargaining agreement was set to expire in June 2020, with contract negotiations initially beginning in February of that year. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the bargaining process significantly, prompting the city to extend the contract with cost-of-living adjustments and the caveat that the union retains bargaining rights over expansions of Portland Street Response’s pilot program.
The parties resumed contract negotiations in January 2021. They held six sessions that were open to the public and five behind closed doors. Then, on June 14, after the 150-day mandatory period of “good faith negotiations,” PPA executive director Daryl Turner announced the union had initiated mediation.
The first session was held July 28, according to Oregon’s Employment Relations Board. The parties have held at least eight closed-door mediation sessions, though the official tally is unclear at this time. That’s in addition to the 11 bargaining sessions that preceded mediation in 2021.
If the city and police union could not reach an agreement during mediation, the process would have moved into arbitration, where an arbitrator would have sided with the “last best offer” of only one party.