Portland PD contract includes pay bump for retention, training

Portland cops could get between a 13% to 20% pay raise under a tentative four-year contract


By Maxine Bernstein
oregonlive.com

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland police officers could get between a 13% to 20% pay increase under a tentative four-year contract, including retention bonuses, wage bumps for completing required crisis intervention training and earning higher education degrees and cost-of-living adjustments.

The contract doesn’t include a policy on body-worn cameras but contains a new guide governing police discipline and allows for the expansion of the Portland Street Response program, which dispatches a mental health worker and fire paramedic to crisis calls.

The city and the Portland Police Association still remain far apart on whether officers should be allowed to view body-camera footage before they’re interviewed or write police reports.

[RELATED: Police1 recently asked readers if their agency allows them to view their bodycam video before writing a report. See the results here.] 

The contract, to run from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2025, must be approved by the City Council and a majority of the members of the Portland Police Association, which represents 881 officers, detectives, forensic criminalists and sergeants.

City officials haven’t disclosed the anticipated total cost of the contract to the city. City negotiators point out that most officers don’t hold bachelor’s or higher academic degrees so won’t receive that premium pay, and that cost-of-living adjustments are provided to all city employees.

Under the contract, officers, sergeants, criminalists and detectives will receive a retroactive 1.6% cost-of-living adjustment to July 1, 2021, a 5% cost-of-living adjustment this July, as well as ongoing cost-of-living adjustments anticipated to be between 1% and 5% the next two years.

In addition, all members will receive a crisis intervention training premium of 2%, plus retention bonuses of $5,000 after the contract is ratified and another $2,000 retention bonus in 2024. Non-sworn public safety specialists will receive a one-time $3,000 retention bonus following ratification of the contract.

Further wage premiums of 2% to 3% will be granted to officers who have obtained a bachelor’s degree and up to 5% for those with a master’s or doctorate degree. In addition, officers will get 2% in premium pay for intermediate police certificate training and 4% for an advanced police certificate from the state’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, effective July 1, 2024.

Further, the contract allows for officers who retire to be rehired for one year, with a one-year renewal option solely at the police chief’s discretion. Those rehired also would get a $5,000 recruitment bonus.

In the event the city’s financial position worsens and revenue dwindles, the contract calls for the council and union to meet and “discuss the economic impact and by mutual agreement” and find “alternatives to a reduction in the work force.”

It allows for the unrestricted geographical expansion of the Portland Street Response program in the city, but says the city won’t reduce any Portland police positions — whether filled or unfilled — as a result of the expansion.

A committee of up to eight management officials from the Portland Police, Fire and Emergency Communications bureaus and union representatives for those bureau employees will form to create “integrated public safety protocols” governing the types of calls for service that Street Response should handle and rules on appropriate responses. The committee’s recommendations would be presented to the police and fire chiefs and director of emergency operations to be approved as future city policy.

The discipline segment of the contract still holds that the city should reprimand or discipline an officer in a manner “that is least likely to embarrass the officer,” but adds a clause that the city may publicly provide procedural updates on the status of an investigation. City officials also can make public statements “regarding empathy for a situation” or for the seriousness of a matter, it says.

A new discipline guide, or so-called “corrective action” guide, includes education-based remedies for policy violations and categories of offenses.

Should an officer challenge any discipline, the arbitrator is bound by the bureau’s discipline guide, yet the arbitrator can overturn discipline if the city hasn’t proved a policy violation or reduce the penalty if the arbitrator finds the policy violation wasn’t correctly categorized in the new discipline guide.

Further, if the union challenges an officer’s discipline, only the union requests an arbitrator from the state board, and the process for selecting one occurs according to state law.

The guide sets out levels of discipline. Level A would be the lowest, resulting in either letters of reprimand or counseling for minor administrative policy and conduct violations such as tardiness. Levels B, C and D would include misconduct that could result in a suspension without pay but not necessarily termination.

Level E would warrant the most severe discipline — termination. Under Level E, these would warrant firing: a felony conviction, domestic violence, untruthfulness, public corruption for financial gain, out-of-policy use of deadly force, a significant violation that results from improper decision-making during a confrontation leading up to use of deadly force and intentional misuse of police authority based on a protected class status.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as the city’s police commissioner, thanked both sides of the negotiations.

“It is important to me that we are able to attract and keep quality police officers and that we have a discipline guide that ensures our officers are held accountable for their actions,” he said in a statement. “We also agreed on an approach to develop and expand Portland Street Response in a way that allows for an integrated and appropriate public safety response, including responding to 911 calls for people experiencing mental health crisis.”

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who has championed the Portland Street Response program, praised the citywide expansion and also said the contract creates a “clear, fair discipline guide to provide accountability for police misconduct.”

“I made a promise to Portlanders we were going to do this contract differently. Over the last 3 years, we took in significant community input, provided as much transparency as labor law allowed, hired outside legal counsel with expertise in police union contracts, and now we have real change,” she said in a statement. “While no single contract negotiation will bring about all the changes I personally would like to see, I’m proud that my office’s deep engagement led to a better process and outcomes.”

Sgt. Aaron Schmautz, president of the Portland Police Association, said the union’s focus was to address the bureau’s staffing shortage, work on the best way to “integrate Portland Street Response” into the city’s public safety system “that keeps everyone safe” and ensure accountability of officers while affording them the right to due process.

“We want to attract the best, pay and train our officers well, and provide ongoing opportunities by investing in our officers for the duration of their careers,” Schmautz said in a statement. “We are committed to being a partner in problem-solving for the public safety needs of everyone in our City.”

Heidi Brown, the city’s chief deputy city attorney, and the city-hired lead negotiator Steven Schuback will hold an online video question-and-answer session at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The City Council will take public testimony on the contract on Feb. 17 and vote the following week.

The union held informational sessions for its members on Sunday and Monday. The union will send out ballots to its members on Wednesday and count votes on Feb. 15.

City negotiators opened the talks in January 2021, calling them a “moment of change.” They sought new educational requirements for officers pursuing promotions, greater latitude for city officials to speak publicly about alleged misconduct, performance evaluations that could lead to discipline, a new negotiated discipline guide and limits to police overtime.

City lawyers had proposed a new disciplinary guide for officer misconduct that would be binding on a state arbitrator and include a restorative option such as enhanced training or community service as potential corrective measures. The union sought to address what it described as “the catastrophic recruiting and retention issues facing our police ranks” so police could respond to a significant increase in shootings and homicides in the city.

There are currently 101 sworn vacancies in the Police Bureau, which has an authorized strength of 882 members.

Negotiations over contract terms got underway amid heightened calls for significant police reforms in the wake of an unprecedented social justice movement sparked by the May 25, 2020, murder of George Floyd, a Black man killed after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

Floyd’s videotaped death prompted nearly seven months of protests in Portland streets with many demonstrators calling for defunding police. City commissioners cut $27 million from the Police Bureau budget last fiscal year and eliminated several units, including its Gun Violence Reduction Team and Transit Division.

The city also passed a ballot measure in November 2020 to create a community board to investigate police misconduct. But that wasn’t part of these talks, the city’s lead negotiator said. The city expects to bargain on the future community oversight board once a committee decides its structure and makeup.

Meanwhile, the Legislature approved Senate Bill 621 to try to prevent the voter-approved measure from being challenged in bargaining.

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