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The council will continue a two-year discussion of a 'review and recommend' board

PMG FILE PHOTO - The city has discussed implementing a structure for oversight of the West Linn Police Department for over two years. Following a March meeting in which members of West Linn's original police oversight task force lambasted a city proposal for a new police accountability entity, the West Linn City Council will continue its discussion of the "review and recommend" board at its next meeting July 5.

The city has discussed the formation of a new police accountability board since a settlement with Michael Fesser, a Black Portlander falsely arrested by West Linn police, shook the city to its core over two years ago. The City Council formed the original oversight task force in 2020 to help establish a permanent structure for accountability. The task force presented its recommendations to the city in December 2020. City discussions on forming a permanent accountability entity were slow-going in 2021 as the city was in the middle of contract negotiations with its police union, but the city finally presented an outline for the new accountability board in March of this year.

Members of the original oversight group called this proposal "mere placating measures."

The city's proposal was for a three-member board which would meet four times a year to "examine trends, review complaints and review reports produced by the Police Department."

The original task force had proposed a larger and more active body with seven members, the majority of whom should be Black, Indigenous and people of color. The task force wanted the board to have some authority over officer disciplinary decisions, and participate in hiring decisions, performance reviews and discussions with labor counsel about union bargaining.

Though at the March meeting he said the original task force members could meet with council and labor attorney Steven Schuback at a future meeting to discuss the proposals, City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos said he was unsure if they would be invited to the July 5 meeting.

"People obviously can come give public comment, but I haven't talked to the mayor yet about inviting members of the task force to participate in the discussion," Gabrielatos said.

"Hopefully we inch closer to passing something or getting it to a place where council feels comfortable moving forward."

Mayor Jules Walters was also unsure what participation from the task force might look like at the coming meeting.

"I feel like we have the task force recommendations in writing," Walters said. "We have the public comment that they shared with us when we last started to discuss what the oversight entity would look like, so I feel like we have really good information from them. Of course we're open to hearing from the public, and not just from the task force. I'm open to hearing from everybody; whether or not that looks like a joint work session (with the task force), we'll have to see as a council."

Gabrielatos also said the council may hear about the city's new contract with the police union at the July 5 meeting. However, he noted that the contract discussion may not take place until July 11.

Walters said the review and recommend structure would be one of the council's most important decisions of the year. Gabrielatos previously said he wanted to continue work on the accountability structure before leaving the city in August.

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