Within the last week, much has been written about our upcoming contract negotiations. Many of those articles point to certain community expectations and goals related to changes—or “reforms”—to our contract. In response, officials from City Hall, including the Mayor, have alluded to their desire to bargain in good faith with the PPA. What we all must remember is to prioritize two important baseline propositions.
Our contract is built upon many fundamental constitutional rights that every citizen of our Nation and State enjoys, including the right to free speech and association, the right to be free from compelled self-incrimination, and the right to due process. Not only are these core constitutional principles hundreds of years old, but they are also the bedrock principles all unions and union members hold sacred. To treat police officers any differently than other unionized public employees, or different than any other American for that matter, is not equitable. Over 50 years ago, United Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote: “policemen, like teachers and lawyers, are not relegated to a watered-down version of constitutional rights.” This basic principle was true then and is still true today.
We must also acknowledge and prioritize what our community wants and deserves. Our community wants to live, work, and recreate in a clean and safe city. Our community wants our children to have constructive educational opportunities in safe environments. Our community wants clean streets, free from garbage, human waste, and drug paraphernalia. Our community wants real, tangible, and visible solutions to combat gang and gun violence and help people in mental health crisis, experiencing homelessness, and struggling with addiction issues.
These community priorities require the presence and active participation of highly trained, proactive, and compassionate police officers like those we currently have in the Police Bureau. Simply put, we need more police officers to meet our community’s needs and priorities.
We are dealing with a catastrophic police staffing crisis like none other; currently down over 120 vacant positions from full staffing and inevitably facing over a hundred more eligible for retirement in August 2020. How do we meet our community’s needs and priorities when we don’t have enough police officers to fill even the most basic of our city services—public safety?
The PPA remains focused on the fundamental issues of collective bargaining, public safety, and adequate staffing to keep our community safe. We will not be distracted by those with self-serving agendas to derail the basic rights of our police officers. And our expectation is that our City leaders focus on preserving core rights and ensuring we address the critical recruiting and retention issues facing the Portland Police Bureau so we can fulfill our community’s public safety priorities.