Portland moves closer to new police oversight board

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Portland City Hall.

Amanda Troxler / OPB

Nine months after voters in Portland finally approved a new police oversight board, the city council on Wednesday took the first official step in responding to voter demands.

The city council voted unanimously to create and appoint 20 community members to the ReThink Police Accountability Commission, charged with designing a plan for the transition from the current oversight body to the new council, delimiting the powers of the new board and determine how it will be organized.

“We had a very successful recruitment process for this commission with over 100 full applications submitted,” said Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who defended the new supervisory board. “We have a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and lived experiences that will produce a strong and thoughtful set of recommendations on how our new policing system should work.”

Hardesty said his office gathered feedback from the community and worked with the city attorney to describe the work the commission will do.

The 20-member commission is made up of long-time policing and health care accountability activists, a lawyer and paralegal with a background in civil rights, immigrant children, indigenous people. , of people with lived experience of drug addiction and the criminal justice system woman who leads a collective of sex workers and will be part of the commission while studying for her masters in Berlin, Germany.

It has been a bumpy road to get to this point. Two days after more than 80% of Portland voters approved the charter amendment creating the supervisory board, the police union representing the rank and file officers filed a grievance to arrest him, vowing to fight the creation of the council.

But over the past nine months, the union’s ability to block the board has waned. City negotiators addressed the issue during union contract negotiations, leaving time for state lawmakers to pass legislation providing a narrow exception to state labor laws that otherwise would have required the city to negotiate with the new board of directors the contract of the police union.

A final pushback in the union’s battle to block the supervisory board came in early July, when attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice called for an amendment to the settlement agreement outlining the city’s plan to transition to the board. monitoring. If that happens, the oversight board shutdown would require a federal judge to step in and overturn both state law and the federal settlement agreement, a move federal prosecutors believe is unlikely.

“A federal court order will not be overturned by state bargaining law,” Deputy US Attorney Jared Hager said at a recent meeting of the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing . “The United States thinks their position is extraordinarily strong. “

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said it was embarrassing to him that a number of commission members were so passionately at odds with his take on policing and called for his resignation. But, he said, the ability to listen to these different perspectives will be what will determine the success of the commission. He said they have an exhilarating and challenging job ahead of them.

“You… will have to listen to other points of view, some point of view that might be very different from your own point of view, and take those points of view into consideration,” Wheeler said at Wednesday’s board meeting. “Ultimately, if this is to be an effective oversight and accountability mechanism, it has to be able to work with the Portland Police Office.”

The commission is expected to spend 18 months doing its job before the new supervisory board can take over from the Independent Police Review, the group currently responsible for police oversight.


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