Bargaining continues between West Linn and police union
As the city of West Linn and Clackamas County Peace Officers association hash out a brand new contract for West Linn police officers for the first time since 2016, they've reached tentative agreements on a number of contract articles and policies, including retention of officer personnel records, officers' duty to intervene and use of drugs and alcohol.
The contract negotiations, which began last year, continue Jan. 21 with a bargaining session that will be viewable to the public. The current contract for rank-and-file officers was initially written to last from 2016 to 2018 but was extended multiple times by both parties.
Retention of personnel records
Contract Article 15, which relates to officers' personnel files, was updated to say that personnel records would be maintained "for at least the minimum time periods consistent with applicable law." The section references Oregon HB 420, a law passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2020 which requires law enforcement agencies to keep personnel records of officers for at least 10 years after the officer left the agency.
Previously, Article 15 of the contract stated personnel records would be destroyed following the officer's annual evaluation. Under the prior contract, the records could be retained by the city attorney's office, but only if the material related to a lawsuit against the city.
However, the tentative agreements for the new contract stipulate different retention guidelines for written reprimands of officers. According to the tentative agreement for Article 15, officers can request to remove written reprimands from their file three years after the reprimand was issued if they did not commit the same or similar offenses. After five years, the employee can request to remove documentation regarding "disciplinary economic suspension" from their file, again if they did not commit the same or a similar offense in that period. The contract states that documents removed from personnel files will be retained by the city manager's office.
This represents a prominent shift toward record retention compared to the previous contract, which required that any records in an officer's file relating to any type of caution, reprimand, admonishment or discipline would be kept in the personnel file for no more than 21 months. If the officer committed the same or similar offenses within that time, the 21 months would start over.
This section of the tentative agreements contains two bargaining notes suggesting there could be further negotiation of these points. The notes state, "the city seeks to discuss retention of personnel records consistent with HB4207 including counseling and history of formal discipline for progressive discipline" and "HB3145 on retention of economic disciplinary actions is also pending." House Bill 3145 requires law enforcement agencies to report disciplinary actions to the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training and was signed by Gov. Kate Brown in July 2021.
The final section of Article 15 includes an addition which states "personnel records will be maintained at a minimum consistent with applicable law." This section also includes a bargaining note stating "the retention of personnel records is distinct from the contents of a personnel file."
An article on grievances and arbitration was updated merely to state that an arbitrator would be selected in a manner consistent with state law to settle grievances regarding discipline of an officer.
Updates to policy manual
Though the main focus of this round of bargaining is the union's new contract, the parties have also discussed department policy, specifically conduct standards and employees' duty to intervene.
A note on the new policy draft states the city has the right to adopt policy at its discretion, but recognizes its duty to bargain certain employment matters required by the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act.
In Policy 301, the "duty to intervene" was revised to be called the "Duty to intervene and report."
The new version of policy 301 clarifies that all police department employees, not just officers, must intervene "to stop another employee engaged in any act the intervening employee knows or reasonably should know is misconduct, unless the intervening employee cannot intervene safely."
The policy now also states that such misconduct should be reported to a direct supervisor or the DPSST.
Other updates emphasize that discrimination and bias are policy violations. The phrase "inappropriate bias or discrimination toward a protected class," was added to the section on prohibited conduct.
Use of alcohol and drugs
In September, the parties discussed Article 38 covering the use of alcohol and drugs. According to the tentative agreements, this article will be updated to clarify that marijuana, even if medically prescribed, is a prohibited substance for officers.
The parties have tentatively agreed for the new contract to read: "The use and possession of marijuana is considered a violation of this policy, regardless of State Law. The use of lawfully prescribed medications, except for marijuana, is permitted subject to prescribed use."
After a growing demand by the community for more accountability from WLPD, the contract negotiations are partially open to the public, meaning community members can view every other bargaining session. Bargaining for the new contract began with a closed session on Feb. 1 of last year. Since then, there have been 10 other sessions, five of which were open for public viewing.
A closed bargaining session will follow the Jan. 21 session on Feb. 8, a year and one week since contract negotiations began. West Linn Human Resources Director Elissa Preston said there was no expected date for a final bargaining session.
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