Police, protesters clash in Oregon over union contract, bodycam accountability

© Kathryn Kendall
The approval of a new police union contract by the city council in Portland, Oregon, has angered activists in the area after it failed to address police brutality. Protesters with Don’t Shoot Portland gathered at City Hall and have been detained and pepper sprayed.

Protests erupted after a meeting between the City of Portland and the Portland Police Association (PPA) took place on Wednesday to approve the contract for the police union. Various groups, including Don’t Shoot Portland and Black Lives Matter, decried the approved contract for a lack of police accountability. As a result, protesters began gathering at City Hall on Tuesday and stayed the night.

Black Lives Matter and Don’t Shoot Portland aren’t the only groups unhappy with the police union contract. The Portland City Auditor Independent Police Review (IPR) was also opposed to the contract. In a press release Auditor Mary Hull Caballero and Director Constantin Severe said the contract “fails to address a number of issues related to police accountability that may undermine the public’s trust in the City’s ability to hold officers accountable.”

Citing issues within the draft body-worn camera policy, the IPR wrote on October 3, “The provision which allows officers to view body camera recordings prior to writing a report is problematic; police reports are meant to reflect the PPA member’s own recollection of events.”

However, the contract itself makes no mention of body cameras or use of footage. An undated FAQ on the mayor’s website explicitly states, “The DRAFT Body Worn Camera Policy is completely separate from the PPA Contract.

The Body Worn Camera Policy does indeed allow members to review footage before writing their reports.

The protesters blocked a MAX Light Rail Service train and caused delays to multiple lines, KGW reported. Police pepper sprayed protesters who refused to move out of the way of the train as well as protesters who “move[d] toward police,” according to KGW. Three people have been arrested and one protester has been hospitalized with a broken arm, KATU reported.

Police have confirmed deploying pepper spray and making arrests, saying that “Projectiles have been thrown at officers at City Hall.” SWAT teams have moved in on the protesters who claim that they were “ambushed by the Portland Police Bureau and SWAT,” one protester told KATU.

The meeting at City Hall was considered unusual by protesters, because the public was not allowed to sit in on it. A press release from Don’t Shoot Portland cited an email they claim had been sent to city employees that said, “It is the City’s intent to conduct business as usual.

Unless something changes,” the statement continued, “City Hall will remain open. However, we do ask that, beginning at noon tomorrow, City Hall office doors should be locked until otherwise advised.”

Don’t Shoot Portland said that the lockout was a sign of Mayor Charlie Hales “attempting to silence the people.”

Mayor Hales presented the contract as a necessity for the police force. Citing a potential staffing crisis on the horizon with 385 retirements looming within the next five years, 65 current vacancies in the department and an additional 21 coming this month, Police Chief Michael Marshman applauded the contract.

The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the City of Portland and the Portland Police Association would help the Bureau attract qualified and diverse candidates to our agency,” Marshman said in a statement.