In the latest edition of the Portland Police Association's monthly Rap Sheet newsletter, union president Daryl Turner shares a recent political epiphany. To strengthen its hand at the bargaining table—facing issues like pay increases, increased oversight, and public contract talks—Turner says the PPA must play a bigger role in selecting and promoting (and then reaping rewards from) political candidates.
We have all read about laws passed in recent years that are not pro-police or pro-union. We have also experienced the difficulty during contract negotiations in acquiring the level of wages, benefits and rights that we have earned. These decisions and many more were made by elected officials....
Countless numbers of those seeking political office have come to the Portland Police Association asking for our endorsement of their campaigns. When we do give a political candidate our endorsement, we have to ask, besides giving them the right to say that the Portland Police Association endorses them, what do we do for them?...
To increase the influence of our endorsement, we must do everything from talking to our family members and friends about the candidates we endorse to becoming actively involved in their political campaigns. As the President of the Portland Police Association, I will be more actively involved in helping candidates that we endorse.
It'll be mildly interesting to see how this plays out ahead of the May primary. It's theatrical, but I don't think it will mean very much. Because the PPA has actually done very little endorsing so far, and there doesn't appear to be much reason for it do any more.
In the race that matters most for Turner's members—mayor—the PPA has taken a pass, even though whoever wins will wind up running not only the police bureau but also the bureau that handles labor negotiations. Not that either of the Big 3 (Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales, and Jefferson Smith) seem like they're out to be bought by an army of door-knocking off-duty cops.
At a recent candidates forum on police accountability, one of the questions directly referred to a story on secret police contract negotiations, first broken by the Mercury. And all three answered that they would compel the PPA to hold the meetings in public, just like the city initially promised. Smith even said he'd go so far as to send council members in, guaranteeing press access.
At other points, Hales went above and beyond by promising he'd be willing to make life tough for the PPA—annoying them just like he annoyed the fire union when he was last on council 10 years ago. And Brady also said she'd push "members of the union in the correct direction" on use-of-force issues as needed.
Otherwise, the PPA has endorsed just one candidate in a truly competitive race is State Representative Mary Nolan, running against incumbent commissioner Amanda Fritz. Nolan has a lot of other unions and special interests and big names on her side and won't need the PPA's help to take on Fritz, although I reckon it won't hurt either.
Oddly, the only other city candidate with the PPA's stamp is Steve Novick, all but assured to win his bid to replace Randy Leonard. And Novick, also judging by his performance at the candidates forum, will be no friend to the union. As I noted in Hall Monitor this week, when suggesting he might be the best police commissioner on the council next year, he said a lot of things the PPA won't like:
No big chunks of cash to boost staffing levels, a frequent request by the PPA. Harsher discipline for cops in the Aaron Campbell shooting. Cops "loudly applauding" Occupy protests. A bigger role for the city's Independent Police Review office. Limits and more study on how and when Tasers and pepper-spray are used. Et cetera.
I wonder if Turner and his members would have reached a different decision on Novick if they waited. One question they're probably not asking in his case: "What do we do" for Novick?
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