Portland voters to decide on police oversight board

Civic Affairs

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has spearheaded the measure

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Measure 26-217 would create a new oversight board of community members who would review complaints against the Portland Police Bureau and impose discipline.

The PPB has been under close scrutiny for its handling of dozens of deadly officer-involved shootings. While most of those killed by officers were white and armed, there was a disproportionate number of Black people and a large number were suffering from mental illnesses, according to PPB data. None of the involved officers were indicted by a grand jury or ultimately disciplined.

Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has been pushing for police reform and accountability for decades. She’s been the driving force to get Measure 26-217 on the ballot.

“The community has continually asked for a truly empowered, independent accountability system,” she said. “An effective accountability system absolutely needs to have community trust and buy-in. Both things which the current system does not have.”

The measure changes the city’s charter: it scraps the current police review committee and creates a new oversight group with civilians who would have the ability to discipline and fire police officers—responsibilities currently belonging to Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as police commissioner.

Apart from investigating deadly force, the board would review other police issues like in-custody deaths. Current or former police officers would not be allowed to be on the board.

Opponents disagree with the measure, saying current levels of oversight can be tweaked to serve the purpose.

“If they need to be tuned or somewhat reformed or evolved, then that’s fine, but starting all over again?” said Daryl Turner, the president of the Portland Police Association. “Jo Ann Hardesty admits she doesn’t have a structure for this ballot measure, she’s just putting a ballot measure out there that says they want civilian oversight that allows civilians to not only subpoena police officers but to discipline police officers. There’s nobody like that when you look at oversight over any profession.”

If passed, the city council would form a commission to work on details to create the board and there would have to be discussions with the police union.

“It does violate collective bargaining law in Oregon,” Turner said. “With that said, however it ends up, we will make a decision what to do about it after the election.”

Hardesty said a team of attorneys has worked on the measure and she believes now is the time for change.

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