September 24, 2019: Looking Back at the Police Union's Use of Grievance Arbitration

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Tue, 09/24/2019 - 5:30pm to 6:00pm




This show is shorter than normal due to KBOO's Fall Membership Drive. 

As the city, its people, and its police union gear up to start negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement for rank-and-file officers and sergeants, we are taking a look back through history at a few instances where the Portland Police Association's power--enshrined in its current contract with the city--prevented or overturned officer discipline despite the egregiousness of their actions. We'll discuss the "Possum Incident" of 1981; the chokehold death of Lloyd "Tony" Stevenson and the alarmingly offensive t-shirts created and sold by other officers in the aftermath; the death in custody of James Chasse in 2006; and the shooting of Aaron Campbell in 2010. A theme throughout is the difficulty of holding officers accountable for racism, harassment, assault and death. We'll also look ahead to the potential outcome of a council vote on a new contract. This episode includes archival audio from the KBOO News, KATU, and the Oregon Historical Society.



At least one listener found our description of the incident that led to the death of Tony Stevenson to be incomplete and we’d like to offer a little more detail.

Stephenson was an off-duty security guard who helped stop a shoplifter at a 7-11 in NE Portland. When cops showed up, Stephenson was initially mistaken for the shoplifter by Officer Gary Barbour and his partner before they were redirected to the actual shoplifter by 7-11 employees. Police arrested the shoplifter and then went after Stephenson who was arguing with two shell gas attendants who had crossed the street and involved themselves in the situation. There is a dispute of fact between police and witnesses as to what happened next and why.

In the show, our description of the event is very brief and it could be inferred that Stevenson was attacked because he was mistaken for the shoplifter, when this was not the case. The end result is the same, however: the death of an innocent man at the hands of a Portland police officer. The most thorough recounting of the event that we have found is this honors college thesis by OSU student Elise Ewens, which draws on contemporary articles, interviews and documents. 


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