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Friday, February 22, 2013

Police Union: Final Drafts of Taser, Force Policies "Fundamentally Flawed"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Days after a federal judge granted the Portland Police Association the right to intervene in the city's settlement with the feds over use of force and mental health reforms—essentially letting the union negotiate over the shape of those changes—union president Daryl Turner now says the police bureau has shut him out of the process.

Turner issued a statement this morning saying proposed changes to use of force and Taser policies are "fundamentally flawed" and will lead to officer injuries.

Update 11:05 AM: Read the latest drafts of the Taser (pdf) and force (pdf) policies yourself.

Yesterday, Chief [Mike] Reese circulated ”final drafts” of the PPB’s new Use of Force and Taser polices as part of the PPB’s implementation of USDOJ reforms. Please be clear that the PPA has not been a party to nor have we agreed to these “final drafts” that the PPB has issued!

The PPA’s input regarding these policies has been continuously ignored by the PPB, and Chief Reese’s assertion that the policies are a collaborative effort is incorrect. The PPA has sought and will continue to seek changes to the PPB’s versions of the policies, which are fundamentally flawed and will place officers at a safety risk and at risk for baseless discipline.

The city and union have been arguing for months over whether changes in the bureau's force policies is a matter for contract negotiations (which start up this spring). The city is asking the Oregon Employment Relations Board to make a ruling in the next several weeks.

The bureau wants changes that include requiring cops to better articulate why they used force, whether they reassessed if they could have eased off, and whether they accounted for someone maybe suffering from mental illness. The union says that changes working conditions and officer safety; the city argues changing rules like that is a "management right."

The statement comes right when semi-retired PPA counsel Will Aitchison is scheduled to sit down with police commissioner Mayor Charlie Hales.

Reese, when he and I sat down earlier this year, has claimed he was seeking PPA feedback on policy changes all along.

We want to move forward on the Taser policy. We want to make sure our officers are trained on recent court rulings and community expectations. We are at the final stages of getting feedback from the Portland Police Association and the Department of Justice. Then we're going to start training on it. And our overall use of force policy? Same thing.

Turner has also railed about injuries before, after a weird, public run of hurt cops last fall... and Reese has also said, before, that he didn't think the DOJ settlement was an issue.

I haven't seen any of the recent injuries tied to the settlement agreement. One, the agreement hasn't been finalized yet. It's in the court process now. Certainly officers now are, I think, considering it. They want to know what our Taser policy will be, where it will end up. And our force policy, where will that end up. They want to be trained so they can be in sync with court rulings around Tasers and use of force. Those officer injuries occurred because we interacted with people who were violent and intent on hurting us and the community.

Read Turner's full statement after the jump.

On February 19, 2013, United States District Court Judge Michael Simon granted the PPA’s Motion to Intervene in the lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Justice against the City of Portland, which alleges that Portland Police Officers have engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the constitutional rights of individuals with actual or perceived mental illnesses. The Judge specifically ruled that the PPA is to become a party to any remedy that the USDOJ and City of Portland may seek to implement that would address the United States’ constitutional claims.

This victory is important to our members because we believe that the Proposed Settlement Agreement between the USDOJ and City contains provisions that would seriously undermine our members’ collective bargaining rights. Those rights include officer safety, discipline standards, workload issues, and compensation. For example, the PPA believes that any changes to the PPB’s Use of Force and Taser policies implicate significant officer safety and discipline issues.

Yesterday, Chief Reese circulated ”final drafts” of the PPB’s new Use of Force and Taser polices as part of the PPB’s implementation of USDOJ reforms. Please be clear that the PPA has not been a party to nor have we agreed to these “final drafts” that the PPB has issued! The PPA’s input regarding these policies has been continuously ignored by the PPB, and Chief Reese’s assertion that the policies are a collaborative effort is incorrect. The PPA has sought and will continue to seek changes to the PPB’s versions of the policies, which are fundamentally flawed and will place officers at a safety risk and at risk for baseless discipline.

Although this dispute has been legally complex, the underlying motivation of the PPA has always remained clear. The PPA will fight to ensure that its members’ collective bargaining rights are upheld. We will keep you informed as this matter unfolds.

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