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Passed by voters, the new oversight system faces legal test that could take years.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Mathew Jacobsen, left, and Shaun Sully, both police officers with the Portland Police Bureau Neighborhood Response Team, shown checking on businesses along Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard.As expected, the Portland Police Association, the union representing the city's police officers, has filed its first challenge to a police oversight ballot measure approved overwhelmingly by voters in the election Tuesday, Nov. 3.

"The PPA is committed to open discussions on police reform and accountability, but this measure has been flawed from the very beginning," said Brian Hunzeker, president of the Portland Police Association, announcing the challenge.

The new grievance has been expected for months, based on a letter from the union to the Portland City Council raising legal concerns before the vote to refer the measure.

The new oversight measure seeks to establish stronger, more independent civilian oversight, responding to longstanding criticisms that Portland's more cooperative hybrid approach, which is less transparent, lacks transparency and is toothless.

More than 296,000 voters supported the measure on Nov. 3, with less than 67,000 opposed.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler responded to the PPA's legal challenge with the following statement:

"The people of Portland overwhelming passed a measure calling for reforms to our police accountability system. We all agree change is needed. This measure reflects the will of the people as demonstrated by their votes. The city will actively defend the voters' decision and comply with the charter amendment to meet any bargaining obligations required by law."

The council referred the measure over opposition of the city's elected auditor, Mary Hull Caballero, who raised concerns that the process was rushed and the measure had not been fully vetted.

The union's legal arguments echo those of several non-union lawyers who told the Portland Tribune the measure appears at odds with state law and to violate the collective bargaining agreement entered into by the city with the officers' union. They said it could take years to litigate.


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