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City, Police Union May Be at DOJ Impasse Over 48-hour Grace Period for Cops Involved in Shootings

Negotiations between the city and its police union over federally-mandated reforms are at an impasse, but Portland Police Chief Mike Reese says he's going ahead with as many changes as he can in the meantime.

The department released an 80-point "Action Item Matrix" today, and the document hints at the one issue that may have the city and the Portland Police Association at loggerheads: 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.

And it's also being criticized for creating a smokescreen around officer-involved shootings.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report that found Portland's police have a "pattern and practice" of using excessive force against the mentally ill. Among the required reforms, which also include changes to use of force policies, the DOJ took aim at Portland's 48 hour rule.

"It is difficult to conceive of [Portland Police Bureau] officers permitting [a] civilian 48 hours before asking him or her questions," the Sept. 13, 2012 report reads.

The matrix shows all reforms color-coded green, yellow and red, with green being changes that can go ahead now, yellow as proceeding but needs additional negotiations, and red items as "experiencing barriers to finalized or progress implementation that require attention."

The only red line item is the 48 hour rule, suggesting that may be the major issue between the city and the PPA.

PPA President Daryl Turner tells WW that he has seen the matrix and knew the city would release it today, but declined to comment on the 48 hour rule.

"We agreed to confidentiality, and the PPA will adhere to that," Turner says. "The city can put out whatever they want to."

Turner says the DOJ reforms aren't official until U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon signs the agreement, and adds Reese moving ahead with changes is "putting the cart before the horse."

He declined to say if he felt the release of the matrix was a violation of the mediation's confidentiality. Turner also declined to say if the union would lodge a complaint with Simon.

"Our main concern is to go through the process and make sure the rights of our members will be protected," Turner says.

During his campaign last fall, Mayor Charlie Hales told WW that eliminating the 48 hour rule was a priority.

"It's an issue I feel strongly about and the public feels strongly about," Hales said in late September. "The public and the Police Bureau are going to be better served if we get timely information—and timely is faster than 48 hours."

Hales spokesman Dana Haynes says that Hales' office was part of the discussion to release the action matrix today. He acknowledged its release could be perceived as a way to make public the private negotiations, but says he can't comment about it.

A spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau didn't immediately return a call and email seeking comment.