PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland City Council voted unanimously Wednesday in support of an independent commission to oversee misconduct investigations of Portland police officers.
The measure advanced by City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty would set up a commission of undetermined size, give it broad powers to investigate complaints, compel testimony by officers and impose discipline, KOIN-TV reported.
Voters will have final say on the measure in November.
“This current system is built around a core principal that police should be in charge of police discipline,” Hardesty said. “The new system operates to ensure police are held accountable to the community they are sworn to protect and serve.”
The newly formed Civilian Oversight Commission would be funded by reallocating 5% of the Portland Police Bureau budget.
City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero, who oversees the existing Independent Police Review, and the Portland Police Association, which represents the majority of the city’s officers, have objected to the new commission.
“This new measure will make them better and will make new officers who join them better,” Hardesty said.
Community members have called for a “truly empowered, independent accountability system” before and after the Independent Police Review was created in 2001, she said.
Overhauling the city’s law enforcement oversight system has been a priority for city officials, particularly Hardesty, amid the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice and public calls to decrease police violence.
She said the ballot proposal amounts to a “framework” and that the city would have 18 months if it passes to work out the details, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The city’s current Independent Police Review is overseen by the city’s auditor and investigates complaints made against police officers. The office has been criticized for its lack of disciplinary power, low funding, lack of subpoena power and its drawn-out investigations that regularly end with investigative findings kept confidential.
Hull Caballero said she doesn’t believe the proposal has been vetted enough. She said a combination of city code, the current Portland Police Association contract and state law has created a current system that blocks any true independent oversight that will carry over to any replacement.