top of page

Opinion: Do not send Prospective Initiative Petition PDX24OL-03 to the November ballot

On March 1st, Portland Elections released new petitions submitted for the November ballot.

This particular notification included issues seeking to overhaul the Community Police Oversight Board that voters approved in 2020, but is not expected to launch until summer 2025.

These petitions are thinly veiled attempts to undermine the will of Portland voters by gutting both the authority, funding, and protections of the Community Police Oversight Board that were written into the city charter.

Let's consider why we should not send petition PDX24OL-03 to the ballot.


What is the Community Police Oversight Board?

In November of 2020 Portlanders approved Measure 26-217 by 81.58% to establish in the city's charter a Community Police Oversight Board that:

  • gives the board the power to subpoena witnesses and request police documents and evidence to investigate complaints made against the Portland Police Bureau,

  • allows the board to impose disciplinary actions up to termination of law enforcement professionals, and

  • authorizes the board to recommend policing policy to the Portland Police Bureau and Portland City Council.

Some key components of the original charter amendment include:

  • funding proportional to no less than 5 percent of the Police Bureau’s Annual Operational Budget.

  • representation from diverse communities including those with diverse lived experiences, particularly those who have experienced systemic racism and those who have experienced mental illness, addiction, or alcoholism.

  • restricts people formerly employed by a law enforcement agency, and people currently employed by a law enforcement agency and their immediate family members, from serving on the Board.

  • gives the Board authority to exercise independent judgment in performing all legally assigned powers and duties. The Mayor, City Council, Auditor, and City departments, bureaus and other administrative agencies shall not interfere in the exercise of the Board’s independent judgment. The physical office of the Board shall be located outside of a Portland Police Bureau facility.

  • gives the Board the authority to investigate certain Police actions, including but not limited to:

    • deaths in custody and uses of deadly force.

    • complaints of force that result in injury, discrimination against a protected class, violations of federal or state constitutional rights.

    • other complaints or incidents of misconduct as they see fit or as mandated by City Code.

What — specifically — would petition PDX24OL-03 do?

According to the ballot title released by the Portland Elections, if the measure is approved, the board would:

  • recommend discipline to Police Chief who makes all discipline decisions, subject only to City Administrator approval

  • Investigate certain misconduct complaints, eliminate authority to investigate other complaints as they see fit

  • Include board members from diverse communities, eliminate emphasis on certain experiences, remove prohibition on law enforcement employees, family members

  • Eliminate 5% budget requirement, Council sets budget

  • Eliminate language regarding independent judgment, noninterference

These amendments eliminate the Board's ability to impose discipline, including termination, eliminates the requirement to have the Board made up of primarily members from communities historically most impacted by police violence and abuse, and opens the door for underfunding of the Board.

Portlanders overwhelmingly voted in the Measure 26-217 charter amendment because the community wants more police accountability — a step toward beginning to heal from historic and systemic police injustice, trauma, and systemic racism — there is no reason to eliminate the power given to this board by the people before they have even assembled.

Who filed the petitions?

The filer of the petition is listed as William B. Aitchison. Upon investigation, Mr. Aitchison is an attorney who routinely represents police unions, including the Portland Police Association.

What can we do about it?

Own and wield the power of your signature — or as the League of Women Voter's of Oregon puts it, "Think Before You Ink"! 40,748 signatures from registered Portland voters is the only way to get this petition on the ballot, don't let yours be one of them.

Follow and support the ACLU of Oregon's legal challenge against the ballot title.

More resources to learn about police oversight reform:

"What it requires, frankly, is political will on behalf of mayors and other local leaders to say that this way isn’t working, and that there is actually another way to do things."​


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page