PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to extend bargaining over the next Portland Police Association contract for a year to better involve the public in the negotiations.

Negotiations over the next contract with the union that represents rank-and-file Portland Police Bureau employees began in January 2020 but have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic that has prevented in-person meetings.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also is in charge of the bureau, pushed for the extension, saying that public interest in reforming the contract to increase police accountability is at an all-time high. The union agreed to forgo the cost of living adjustment scheduled for July 1, allowing the city to save $3 million in next year’s budget, while resuming negotiations in January 2021.

Wheeler said the extension also will allow new state laws approved at the recent special session of the Oregon Legislature that will affect the contract to take effect at the July 1 hearing. They include restrictions on arbitrators overturning the discipline of police officers through state-mandated mediation.

Under Oregon public employment contract law, the current contract remains in effect until the new one is ratified by the union and approved by the council.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty sent an open letter to Wheeler with some demands, including to stop using tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters.

KOIN 6 News reached out to the PPA but the union declined to comment.