10-21-2016  2:09 am      •     
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The Portland City Council voted Wednesday to approve a contract between the Portland Police Bureau and its union – despite calls from activists to postpone the vote until Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler steps into office.

Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish both voted aye on the contract, as did Mayor Charlie Hales. Commisionner Steve Novick voted against it and Commissioner Dan Saltzman was absent, in observation of Yom Kippur.

The vote took place in a conference room outside council chambers, moving away from a public audience and locking out protesters, who have demonstrated against the acceptance of the new contract for more than a week. Wednesday morning local media reported activists from Don’t Shoot Portland were blocking traffic in front of City Hall.

Last Wednesday protesters crowded council chambers to testify on the new contract. On Thursday activists reacted by attending an unrelated hearing scheduled that afternoon – related to the city’s possible purchase of a bridge crane – to testify. Portland Copwatch leader Dan Handelman, Don’t Shoot Portland organizer Teressa Raiford and activist Malcolm Craddock all offered pointed testimony that mentioned the bridge crane but discussed public safety concerns in great detail.

The tentative contract eliminates the controversial 48-hour rule – a clause in previous union contracts that gave officers 48 hours before they were required to give statements on incidents involving use of force. But its policy on body-worn cameras allows officers “a reasonable opportunity” to review the body camera audio/video before writing up reports for use of force incidents other than use of deadly force or in-custody deaths.

Activists say the clause gives too much leeway to officers involved in use of force incidents, but they also noted the current contract doesn’t expire until 2017, and had asked the council to postpone voting on the contract until next year. Hales has said he wanted to expedite the vote in order to hire more officers.

The proposed contract also raises new officers’ starting pay from $49,837 to $60,840 and delivers pay increases to experienced officers.

Following the Wednesday morning vote, protesters were pepper sprayed and forcibly removed from City Hall by police. Photos of the demonstration can be seen below. Photos courtesy of Mike Bivins of The Pacific Sentinel.

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Protests were still ongoing early Wednesday afternoon as The Skanner went to press. According to the Portland Police Bureau, 10 protesters were arrested during the demonstration.   

Early Wednesday morning, nationally known writer and activist Shaun King called on Black Lives Matter activists across the country to boycott the city of Portland if officials accepted the police contract.

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