This Week in the Mercury


Monday, April 7, 2014

Target's Paying for Cops Again—and More Businesses Might Follow

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 4:05 PM

The Portland Police Bureau is deep into another tour providing overtime security for downtown's still-spiffy Galleria Target—very quietly reviving a special-case contract for near-daily anti-shoplifting and sidewalk enforcement patrols that had lapsed in January, just after the busy holiday shopping season.

And that renewed public-private relationship, based on comments by bureau officials, could serve as something of a test case for the spread of similar arrangements throughout the city's various retail districts. We could be seeing something like miniature versions of the city's Clean & Safe district, in which certain downtown businesses pay extra to ensure a heavier police presence near their doorsteps.

The new contract (pdf), obtained in a records request, started March 18. And, just like the last one, it has officers making rounds in the building but also on the streets surrounding the store—including a MAX station just south of the building. The contract due to sunset in September, provided the bureau and Target don't agree to re-up the thing sooner; contract language calls for a formal reevaluation in August.

Bureau policy still discourages letting cops work overtime at jobs that serve "primarily a security function for the sole benefit of the establishment" and are "focused solely on the interests of the business."

But the bureau, when I last wrote about the contract in November, argued the sidewalk patrols pushed the Target contract out of that category. In essence, city officials are getting more police on the streets—albeit the streets around one particularly well-heeled business—without having to pay the overtime or staffing costs themselves. It was celebrated as "community engagement."

That's still the thinking today—and now the bureau is saying it might change its policy so that kind of engagement, even if a business also benefits, is an explicit requirement for security work.

"The policy is being reviewed to factor those things in. There are different opinions on whether [security contracts] are good or bad or beneficial or not," says Sergeant Pete Simpson, the bureau's lead spokesman, linking the sidewalk patrols at the Target to the bureau's other livability efforts—including new foot patrols downtown that launched last month. Those foot patrols are part of a controversial push against nuisance crimes often associated with homelessness.

"How does this tie in?" Simpson says. "Is there a benefit to the greater community? It's still an ongoing conversation."

Simpson was channeling Central Precinct Commander Bob Day, who runs point on sidewalk issues and hashed out the latest Target contract. Simpson says Day liked that officers are supposed to be outside the store, "engaging people in conversation."

That requirement, as we reported in November, was a bit more understated under the old deal with Target. That contract only promised patrols of the store's "property," which might or might not have included the public sidewalk outside. The hourly patrols of the sidewalk were mentioned separately, in the marching orders actually handed to cops. (The Portland Police Association, paid by the city to manage security contracts, provides those orders when cops sign up for the security shifts.)

This time, the contract itself lists the patrols—and not just every hour, but every half-hour.

Screen_shot_2014-04-02_at_2.23.24_PM.png

Interestingly enough, however, there's still a discrepancy between the contract and the marching orders. According to those, cops still have to go out only once an hour.

Job Title: Galleria Target
Location: 939 SW Morrison
Times: 16:00:00 to 20:00:00
Description:

ONE (1) Officer with Marked patrol car.

Allow for travel time, so you can arrive on time, as your shift starts
on Sign in time and ends on sign outm time.(NO PAY FOR TRAVEL TIME)

Police Officer Duties upon arrival at the Target Store:

Park Police Vehicle on dock area in front of the garbage dumpster Roll
up doors on SW Alder /SW 10 to 9th 2 (May be briefly moved to
accommodate freight delivery).
* Check in with Target Assets Protection Team
* Sign-in on Off-Duty Officer Log
* Check out a Target Radio
* Begin patrol of Target Store and property
* ONE OUTSIDE PERIMETER PATROL PER HOUR
* Provide impression of control for Guests and potential criminal
subjects in area
* Sign out on the Off-Duty Officer Log
* Return Target Radio

Portland Police Officers should not accuse Target Guests of theft
crimes, nor become involved in the Target Corporation apprehension
procedures. Instead, Officers should monitor Guest traffic for crimes
in progress, drug offenses, placement of improvised explosive devices,
or other signs of significant criminal activity. Officers may stand by
during a shoplifting apprehension, but should not become involved
unless the apprehension elevates to an additional criminal offense such
as, assault, robbery, or if a weapon is displayed by the subject.

Simpson says cops who do the work are being told about the more stringent requirement.

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