West Linn City Hall
Issues News WLAIC

Public Comment to West Linn City Council Concerning WLPD Oversight

April 28, 2020

Dear Mayor Axelrod and City Council Members

The West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community believes that community input into city governance is a crucial part of the process for change and progressive improvement. Such input strengthens the decision-making process. We are acting in good faith, within this context, by providing public comment on seven areas of West Linn government policy activity relevant to the West Linn Police Department (WLPD):

Create a City policy and procedure to provide oversight, accountability, and transparency.

Confirm that the WLPD Mission statement, and Policy and Procedures Manual are in line with best practices and are unambiguous about our commitment to diversity and equity.

Support the proper collection of data for compliance with Oregon STOP.

Establish an independent police oversight structure.

Review structure for policing in West Linn.

Review WLPD staffing and compensation levels.

Amend the police union contract.

Create a City policy and procedure to provide oversight of the West Linn Police:

Incidents such as the Fesser case and several before it have demonstrated that the current City process of police oversight is failing to produce acceptable results. From WLAIC’s perspective, there is a lack of credible process to monitor police activity and an inability to implement corrective discipline when required. The process is opaque and lacks transparency. The resulting adverse financial and reputational outcomes for the City are unacceptable.

WLAIC believes the City of West Linn needs to take the following steps:

Establish a strong equity framework that is encoded in City policy

Establish clear procedures for City management and oversight of the WLPD

Require regular reporting to the City Council on the oversight process and any resulting actions.

Establish policy to ensure that City Council is informed of all incidents that could result in significant reputational and/or financial damage to the City.

Provide public access to appropriate reports on the oversight process and ensure that the public understands when systemic problems are being addressed.   

Confirm that the WLPD Mission statement, and Policy and Procedures Manual are in line with best practices and are unambiguous about our commitment to diversity and equity.

A cursory comparison with neighboring police department manuals, such as Beaverton and Tigard, reveals interesting differences.  They each start with a mission statement.  Our mission statement includes the phrase “enhancing the quality of life to the West Linn community,” which can readily be open to a discriminatory interpretation.

West Linn’s manual is comparatively short at 469 pages.  Beaverton’s is 687 pages and Tigard’s is 724 pages.   Consider the policy on Hate Crimes (338 for WL and Tigard, 318 in Beaverton).  West Linn’s policy is a short two paragraphs.  The others are both several pages, including steps for prevention, steps for community education, and steps for officer training.  We infer the West Linn Police Department is not following the best practices of at least these two neighboring cities.

A further comparison of the omissions in our manual may point to other best practices that are not recognized or practiced here.

Support the proper collection of data for compliance with Oregon STOP.  

As a Tier 2 city, the WLPD will be included in the upcoming year’s report on demographic data of people subject to roadside stops and searches by the police.  We recommend that the city independently monitor this data to confirm its accuracy. West Linn is perceived to have a problem with the crime of “driving while black” as well as a problem with targeting youth and those who drive older, run-down vehicles.  Publicly available data demonstrating actual policing activity would be useful in addressing this perception. 

Establish an independent police oversight structure

WLAIC believes the City of West Linn could benefit from some sort of independent police oversight structure. We are currently exploring the different options and structures for such a body. 

We will communicate with the City when we have completed our review.

Review the structure for policing in West Linn

WLAIC believes that the structure of policing in West Linn contributes to ongoing problems such as the Fesser case and a series of misguided drug stings. Thus far, the City has demonstrated a lack of ability to provide appropriate oversight for the WLPD. WLAIC believes the City needs to either make significant changes in the level of City oversight for WLPD activities or consider the option of moving to the Wilsonville model of collapsing the police force into the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

If the City is to maintain the current structure of policing, then appropriate structures and procedures are needed for maintaining regular oversight and transparency to prevent the sort of corrupt and discriminatory practices we have seen under the West Linn Police Department over many years.  

Review WLPD staffing and compensation levels 

As stated in the city budget, the strategy is to “maintain a staffing level ensuring a response time of 5 minutes or less to Priority One (life safety) calls.”   Does it really require 34.5 budgeted FTE positions to accomplish this? Are the staffing levels in the WLPD in line with staffing required for other municipal police departments?  We note that Wilsonville, a city with more than 24,000 residents, only slightly less than West Linn’s almost 27,000, has a police force of 20 officers and a 2020 budget of $5.3 million, versus West Linn’s police force of 34 officers and $9.5 million.  

Amend the Police Union Contract 

The West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community (WLAIC) is submitting the observations and requests below regarding the negotiation of THE CITY OF WEST LINN AND THE

CLACKAMAS COUNTY PEACE OFFICERS’ ASSOCIATION COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT, which expires on June 30, 2020.  Below we present a series of specific provisions that we would like to see addressed in the next union contract. These suggestions are offered to accomplish the Council’s commitment to greater transparency and accountability for the West Linn Police Department.  

Overall, we believe it would be beneficial for the negotiation process to be more transparent. We would recommend public hearings and a chance for public input/comment into the union contract. 

Article 7, Management Rights

Clause 7(A)(10) grants the City of West Linn the “exclusive prerogatives, functions and

rights” to “discipline and discharge.”  Such a clause could limit the authorities of an independent oversight body to investigate and recommend disciplinary action of police officers accused of misconduct.  We recommend that the Council eliminate the word “exclusive” to ensure that any findings or recommendations from an independent oversight body that might be established can be taken into consideration by police management. 

Article 9, Discipline and Discharge

We are concerned about several provisions in the current contract under this article, that could serve to deter appropriate discipline when incidents arise: 

We recommend that the contract include specific protection for whistleblowers.

9(E)(8) states that “the personal life of an employee shall not be a concern of the City. In cases where an informal complaint is filed against an employee, the employee shall be advised of the complaint.” WLAIC recommends amending this section to provide that the personal life of an employee is not a concern of the City unless it is deemed to interfere with his or her ability to perform their duties. WLAIC notes that if in his or her “personal life” an officer attends white supremacist rallies or engages in racist or xenophobic messages through his or her social media posts, then their ability to represent West Linn police is compromised, as we saw in the case of former Officer Tom Newberry.

9(E)(13) states that “no member of the bargaining unit will be required to write a report to the City on any complaint against them (by persons in or outside the Police Department) unless said complaint is signed and dated in written form by either the complainant or the officer taking the complaint.”  We want to ensure that this provision does not negatively impact the ability of any citizen to make an anonymous complaint and have it investigated. WLAIC believes there should be a robust system for making citizen complaints and that the language of the contract should not limit their ability to have those complaints investigated when appropriate.

Article 14, Training

We request that the WLPD add an approved Diversity, Equity and Inclusion certificate training program as a requirement for all current officers and new recruits.   Anyone appointed to be a Field Training Officer must have completed a DEI certificate program.  Furthermore, DEI training should require an assessment component that holds officers accountable for what they have learned in applying the lessons in their interactions with the public.  A trained officer’s ability to implement appropriate DEI behaviors in their daily activities should also be part of their performance assessment.

Article 17, Salary

We request the Council consider the following recommendations:

17 b 1Accelerated promotions should receive a mandatory review by the Union as well as the City Manager before being implemented. 

17 Officers that have demonstrated the ability to consistently put into practice the lessons of approved DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) training programs should be rewarded with an appropriate certification pay step. 

WLAIC appreciates your consideration of our community input.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *