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Portland PD union’s ballot initiative to increase cops on patrol ruled unconstitutional

The measure would have asked voters to “increase and maintain” the number of patrol officers using marijuana tax revenue and cash from the city’s general fund

Portland police union’s ballot initiative to boost patrol cops deemed unconstitutional

“This initiative clearly seeks to increase the size of the PPB patrol division within the existing administrative framework for officer allocation,” von Ter Stegge wrote Thursday. “For this reason, the court finds that the initiative proposes an impermissible administrative change.”

Portland Police Bureau via Facebook

By Zane Sparling
oregonlive.com

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland Police Association-backed ballot initiative that would have asked voters to require the city to boost patrol officers and establish a detoxification center is unconstitutional, a judge ruled this week.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Katharine von Ter Stegge said the proposal fell afoul of the requirement that ballot initiatives enact legislative changes, rather than administrative changes to existing law.

“This initiative clearly seeks to increase the size of the PPB patrol division within the existing administrative framework for officer allocation,” von Ter Stegge wrote Thursday. “For this reason, the court finds that the initiative proposes an impermissible administrative change.”

Lawyers affiliated with the Portland Police Bureau’s rank-and-file union first submitted the prospective petition in February, with hopes of clearing the ballot language and scooping up enough signatures in time to get their proposal before city voters in the November election.

As written, the ballot initiative would have asked voters to “increase and maintain” the number of patrol officers, street response services and detoxification centers using marijuana tax revenue and cash from the general fund.

Jacqueline Yerby, the director of community engagement at the Oregon ACLU, challenged the proposed text in March, saying it would confuse voters into thinking they were supporting more funding for Portland Street Response, a distinct unarmed crisis team operated by the Portland Fire Bureau.

Von Ter Stegge didn’t consider those arguments, but shot down the initiative petition anyway because changes to officer staffing can already be made within the bureau’s existing administrative framework.

In a statement, Portland Police Association president Sgt. Aaron Schmautz said the goal of the initiative was to “give Portlanders a voice” and increase public safety.

“We are dismayed that a single court has blocked the opportunity for all voters to have a say in their own City’s affairs,” Schmautz said.

While the proposal now appears dead, police union officials continue to press forward with a separate petition that would drastically scale back a new community police oversight board approved by the voters in November 2020.

If approved, that initiative would return disciplinary decisions to the police chief, eliminate a requirement that the board receive funding equal to 5% of the Police Bureau’s budget and rein in the ability of the board to investigate non-misconduct complaints “as they see fit.”

Leroy Haynes Jr., the lead pastor at the Allen Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, has challenged the petition, saying the description of it written by the city attorney’s office doesn’t accurately capture the reduction of the oversight board’s authority.

Haynes is also chair of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform but isn’t directly affiliated with the proposed community oversight board.

Von Ter Stegge heard arguments regarding the oversight committee initiative on April 26 but hasn’t yet issued a ruling.

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