Over three decades, Portland police chiefs have fired officers who were convicted of driving drunk off duty, leaving dead animals outside a black-owned business, and selling “Smoke ‘Em, Don’t Choke ‘Em” T-shirts to officers after a man died in police custody from a neck hold. The chiefs had to bring them all back, The Oregonian reports. More recently, an arbitrator overturned the firing of an officer for fatally shooting an unarmed man in the back, the 80-hour suspensions for two officers in another death, and the 900-hour suspension of an officer over a fatal shooting.
What does it take to discipline a Portland police officer? If push comes to shove and it goes to arbitration, you can’t do it. Police leaders complain that they can’t effectively manage their work force when decisions are second-guessed and overturned. Police union representatives say the percentage of discipline cases they challenge is small. In the past 10 years, 12 discipline cases in the nearly 1,000-member police force ended up in arbitration. An arbitrator overturned the discipline in half; the others await a hearing or a ruling.