PORTLAND, OR – The Portland Police Association has filed a motion in federal court seeking to block a judge’s approval of a negotiated settlement agreement that requires Portland police to adopt a myriad of reforms.
Anil S. Karia, the attorney for the Portland police union, argues in court papers that the city’s negotiated agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to adopt changes to Portland police policies, training and oversight undermines the collective bargaining rights of the union’s members.
He requested oral argument on his motion to intervene as a defendant, alongside the City of Portland, in the civil suit the federal government filed against Portland on Monday.
The city is “restraining and coercing PPA members by requiring them to comply with the City-DOJ agreement even though it violates the PPA-City collective bargaining agreement,” Karia wrote in a 36-page memorandum in support of his motion.
Mayor Sam Adams said the city disagrees with the union’s assertion that the settlement agreement violates members’ collective bargaining rights.
The settlement “accepts that certain provisions of the agreement will be subject to collective bargaining,” Adams said. “If any part of the agreement is impacted by collective bargaining, the city will work with the DOJ to determine how to proceed.”
“Our perspective is that the city of Portland needs to begin its efforts to accomplish the reforms called for in this agreement immediately,” said Adams.
U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon has scheduled a status hearing on the case for 9:30 a.m. on Friday, according to federal court records.
The judge on Wednesday also gave federal prosecutors until Jan. 22 to file a response to the union’s motion to intervene. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrian Brown requested the two-week delay, citing previously arranged holiday travel plans.
Members of the Albina Ministerial Alliance’s Coalition for Justice and Police Reform also have pledged to attend Friday’s court hearing, to let the judge know of the community’s “profound disappointment with this DOJ settlement,” according to a post on the coalition’s Facebook page.
The union action came one day after the federal government formally filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Portland in U.S. District Court, alleging excessive force by police, as well as a proposed settlement that calls for a multitude of police reforms.
The court filings stem from the U.S. Department of Justice’s nearly 15-month investigation into use of force by Portland police. It found police engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force against people suffering from or perceived to have a mental illness.
The settlement agreement, approved by the City Council on Nov. 14, calls for widespread changes to Portland police policies on use of force and Tasers, training, supervision and oversight. It also calls for a restructuring of police crisis intervention training and quicker internal inquiries into alleged police misconduct.
The police union filed a separate grievance with the city after the council approved the negotiated settlement.
In the grievance, the union contends that city officials “in bad faith” reached the settlement agreement without negotiating changes that impact its members working conditions, workload, safety-related training, disciplinary procedures, and an officer’s right to legal representation.
The union also argues that new use of force standards and restrictions on Taser use “will jeopardize officer safety,” and its officers “will be unreasonably limited in the force tools available to them to safely resolve incidents,” according to the legal documents filed in court.
Karia cited a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case, which overturned a federal district ruling that denied a similar motion filed by The Los Angeles Police Protective League.
The Los Angeles police union sought to intervene in a consent decree between the city of Los Angeles and the federal government after the U.S. Department of Justice found Los Angeles police engaged in excessive force, false arrests and improper searches and seizures. A district court judge denied the union’s motion, but the federal appellate court in April 2002 reversed the ruling.
By the time the Ninth Circuit Court ruled on the appeal, the federal district court in Los Angeles already had approved the consent decree. The appellate court said its ruling did not require the district court “to turn back the clock or rescind the consent degree,” but it should allow the police union to intervene from that date forward.
Karia argued in his motion that the Portland Police Association has significant interests in the civil matter before federal Judge Simon, and those interests won’t be adequately represented by the city.
Karia said in court papers that he discussed the matter with City Attorney James Van Dyke on Monday, and learned that the city opposes the union’s motion.
From The Oregonian