One cringe after another

Why don't the Portland police wear body cameras? When you ask that question, the responses you get reveal a lot of what is wrong with law enforcement, and governance, in the Rose City.

The first wrong thing you find out is that the issue is a matter of bargaining between the city and the police union. Really? The City Council can't just declare it so? Whoever created that situation must not be too bright. Oh, it's the state legislature? Figures.

Then you find out how the union contract gets negotiated. They're in the middle of it right now; the current contract expires a week from Wednesday. They're about to go into top-secret mediation, which will doubtlessly be futile. Then it's off to some nameless, faceless arbitrator who will decide the future of Portland by picking which side is being less of a jerk.

(Cue the chorus: Whoever created that situation must not be too bright. Oh, it's the state legislature? Figures.)

What will the city be pushing for in the arbitration? Sorry, the city attorney has slapped a gag order on anyone involved from City Hall. They're all forbidden from telling the public anything about the city's positions. Only the union gets to blab in the press, selectively, about what they want.

And if all that weren't nauseating enough, the parties' past positions on body cams are enough to send you running for the nearest commode. The City Council has never supported the cams becase they say they cost too much and haven't eliminated all police misconduct from the face of the earth. This is what you get when you put high school dropouts, ideologues, and people with bullhorns in management positions. They just don't get it.

Over on the union side, they want the cams, but they want secret cams, where only the officers and the union get to see the footage right away. The public would have to wait many months, even years, until the "investigations" of misconduct are over, before a single second of video is made public. Or maybe the union would have the option of ensuring that the tapes are never seen at all.

Both sides' positions are patently ridiculous, of course. Portland police should be wearing body cams, as of yesterday. Turning them off should be a fire-able offense. In fact, there should be no "off" buttons. And Portland should be the most transparent city in the country when it comes to releasing body cam video to the public.

It is not complicated, and I'd bet what I've just described would pass by a 3-to-1 margin if it were put to a public vote. So what's the problem?

There are two problems. The police union. And the people on the City Council. This town is so desperate for competent leadership.


  1. Is high school dropout meant to be taken literally? If so, can you provide specifics?


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