Portland Voters To Decide Police Review Board Change

Portland City Council is sending a measure to voters in November that would replace the current Independent Police Review Board with a new system of police oversight.

The resolution was introduced by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. It would give voters in November the opportunity to vote on a ballot measure that would authorize the creation of a new police oversight system.

A statement from Hardesty says:

The work doesn’t stop on Wednesday: If the ballot measure passes in November, a commission would be established to work with the community to create the specific details of the new system. Additionally, legal changes would also need to take place before the new system could fully take off.

This new system would review at the minimum four types of cases: Excessive use of force, deaths in custody, civil liberties violations, and acts of police towards a protected class.

Asked why this action is being taken now, Commissioner Hardesty says, “In my decades of working on police reform, the community has repeatedly asked for a truly empowered independent police accountability system. This is an opportunity to do something new while carrying over the lessons and victories from the past. We can no longer tinker with a broken system, and if we were looking for the rare opportunity to build something new from the ground up, driven by community, this is it.”

She continues, “Will those who have had a hand in this broken system try to fight this? Absolutely. That’s why I’m excited for this to go to the community so the people can decide what they would like to see when it comes to police oversight.”

This new oversight system would be different from the city’s current system in several critical ways:

• The new body would have final say within the city on discipline;

• It would be able to directly impact PPB policies and directives;

• It would be removed from all bureaus and elected offices;

• It would mandate adequate funding for this critical work; and

• It would have expanded investigatory powers including better access to evidence and ability to compel testimony.

This measure was informed by:

• External stakeholder meetings with representatives from community groups (with an invite list of 50+ individuals)

• Internal meetings with city attorneys, city staff, former and current Independent Police Review staff, and Citizen Review Committee members

• Bureau of Human Resources report documenting discussions from two Community Conversations co-hosted by Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Hardesty regarding the city’s upcoming contract negotiations with Portland Police Association. One of the themes identified and discussed by attendees focused on Civilian Oversight. https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2020-02/community-conversation-on-ppa-contract-summary-report-2-21-2021.pdf

• Community survey shared through the Commissioner’s networks and social media channels

• Joint police reform letter from 40+ community organizations regarding the city’s upcoming negotiations with Portland Police Association: https://www.uniteoregon.org/ppa_contract_letter

• Commissioner Hardesty’s decades of experience around police accountability