PORTLAND, Ore. -- The City of Portland plans to vote on the ratification of a new police union contract at a City Council meeting Wednesday.
The activist group Don't Shoot Portland said it will hold a peaceful protest Tuesday at City Hall and then camp out overnight so it can "fight against the contract" at Wednesday's meeting.
In advance of those two events, Portland Police Bureau Chief of Police Mike Marshman issued a news release Tuesday morning, in which he addresses the reasons for the new contract, the use of body cameras and what the department is doing to address its relationship with the community.
Reasons for the new contract
Marshman said one of the department's top priorities is correcting a "staffing crisis" in which it has lost members while Portland's population continues to increase.
According to the police chief, the department has 65 current vacancies, with at least 21 more expected in October. As a result of the staffing shortage, Marshman said the average officer is responding to 35 percent more dispatched calls as compared to 2012.
The department has tried to address the staffing shortage by reassigning officers from specialty units, such as gang enforcement and traffic division, to regular work patrols. But the positions in the specialty units are not being filled.
Marshman said the new police union contract will help address the staffing shortage, attract more qualified and diverse candidates and provide additional incentives to retain current officers and attract new officers to Portland.
Use of body cameras
There is no language about body cameras in the new contract, Marshman said.
Marshman said body cameras are beneficial and "add another layer of legitimacy and transparency," but said there is still more to discuss about "data retention, expense, public records requests, privacy issues, etc.," as the department makes decisions about the implementation of a policy on body cameras.
"As technology rapidly evolves, these issues could change and need to be readdressed prior to implementation," Marshman said.
Police and community relations
Marshman said the bureau is making changes to address the relationship between the police and community, including:
- Equity training for officers, which includes lessons on institutional racism and the history of race relations in Portland. New training on implicit bias is forthcoming.
- Changes to recruiting and hiring processes to build a diverse workforce.
- Community engagement has been prioritized, whether it's through events, conversations or social media.
- A continued partnership with the Department of Justice to "fulfill and exceed the expectations in the Settlement Agreement."
- Seek a balance in policing a community where social services have deteriorated and traditional enforcement strategies are no longer effective.
Read the entire news release below: