Portland police oversight ballot measure explained

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Police oversight boards in Portland date back to 1982

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The creation of a new independent community police oversight board is on the ballot this November for Portlanders.

Ballot Measure 26-217 would amend current city charter to authorize the city to create the new board.

The board would be given the power to investigate complaints against Portland Police and impose discipline, including termination of officers—responsibilities currently belonging to Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as police commissioner.

This would be an expansion of powers and budget to the current oversight board, called the Citizen Review Committee.

Funding would come from 5% of Portland Police Bureau’s annual budget.

Board membership would include people from diverse communities, particularly those with lived experience of systemic racism and those who have experienced mental illness, addiction or alcoholism.

Supporters of a measure to change the city charter and alter the way Portland police are held accountable gathered at Terry Schrunk Plaza, October 19, 2020 (KOIN)

Current law enforcement employees and immediate family members or former law enforcement employees would be barred from serving on the board.

The board size, members’ terms and limits will be decided by subsequent City Code.

The physical office of the Board would be located outside of a Portland Police Bureau facility.

The measure would create a framework to be filled in with subsequent code changes voted on by City Hall. That includes creating a temporary commission to help set up the new police oversight board and incorporating community feedback.

City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty spearheaded the effort to get the measure on the ballot. Portland City Council voted unanimously in support of the proposed measure to create a new oversight board on July 29.

Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty spearheaded the effort to get a police oversight board ballot measure passed by City Council over the Summer. She’s pictured here speaking to protestors during a candlelight vigil to support Portlanders’ rights to free speech and assembly at the Multnomah County Justice Center on July 17, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Mason Trinca/Getty Images)

A group of supporters who are hoping the measure can help keep police more accountable for misconduct held a press conference Monday at Terry Shrunk Plaza downtown.

City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero, whose office currently runs the Independent Police Review, voiced opposition to the measure, saying the concepts were “unvetted.” She instead advocated for a “thoughtful schedule of Code changes, paired with a transition plan.”

Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner also voiced disapproval for the measure, saying in part that a civilian oversight body that can impose discipline is not typically done in any other profession.

Some legal experts also raised the concern that the ballot measure my conflict with state labor laws and the police union contract, which may make it susceptible to years-long stints of litigation.

However, Hardesty vowed concerns about the measure will be addressed.

“I spent a lot of time prior to submitting this ballot measure talking to both city attorneys and expert legal advisers on contractors before we ever submitted this,” Hardesty said during a July press conference. “I am absolutely confident that a) the Portland Police Association will try to fight it and b), that they will lose. It is absolutely a legally sound document.”

History of police oversight boards in Portland

KOIN 6 News reached out the the Independent Police Review to ask about a more detailed history of police oversight boards and their functions. Here is a brief rundown, according to IPR Policy and Outreach Coordinator KC Jones.:

  • Police Internal Investigations Auditing Committee was the first police oversight agency in Portland, which lasted from 1982 to 2001. It was made up of citizen advisors who were volunteers nominated by City Council members. PIIAC did not conduct investigations of complaints but met once a month to hear appeals of cases where community members were dissatisfied with investigations conducted by the Police Bureau’s Internal Affairs unit.
  • The Independent Police Review replaced PIIAC. Established in 2000 and staffed in 2001, IPR is staffed by city employees under the elected City Auditor. IPR serves as the main intake point for community complaints about police misconduct. IPR conducts independent investigations of police misconduct, reviews all cases investigated by Internal affairs, makes policy recommendations and has subpoena power. This office is currently active.
  • The Citizen Review Committee was also established in 2001 and made up of volunteers recruited by IPR and approved by City Council. The group holds monthly meetings to hear appeals and also has workgroups that are empowered to study policy and practices and recommend improvements to Police Bureau and IPR. This group is currently active.
  • The Police Review Board is another body which hears and sometimes enacts discipline for cases that go through the oversight system. Voting members on the board include an Assistant Chief, the Police Supervisor who wrote the findings, a peer officer, an IPR manager and a community member volunteer. The board votes on findings and recommends discipline to the Chief of Police for review.

There exist other advisory and compliance groups connected to a 2012 Department of Justice Settlement Agreement related to an alleged pattern of unconstitutional use of force by PPB against individuals with actual or perceived mental illness:

  • The Community Oversight Advisory Board was established in 2012 as an independent body of community volunteers charged with community engagement and monitoring around the implementation of the City of Portland’s settlement agreement with the U.S. DOJ. The board was disbanded in 2016 by City Council and replaced with the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing.
  • The Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing was established in 2018. Like its predecessor, it is an independent body of community volunteers charged with community engagement and monitoring around the implementation of the City of Portland’s settlement agreement with the U.S. DOJ. This group is currently active.
  • The Compliance Officer/Community Liaison was established in 2012 as part of a City contract with Rosenbaum and Associates for compliance monitoring and implementation of the City of Portland’s settlement agreement with the U.S. DOJ. COCL issues quarterly reports on compliance with the settlement agreement. This group is currently active.

PPB also has a number of advisory groups made up of community volunteers.

Ballot Measure 26-217 will be decided on by Portland voters by Nov. 3.

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