Today, Portland City Council addressed the settlement agreement for Sergeant Gregg Lewis of the Portland Police Bureau. I spoke against this settlement offer today and I want to tell you why.
I was briefed by City Attorneys on the statements made by Sergeant Lewis during roll call. While the paraphrased remarks I recollected today at City Council differ from the quotes used in the official report, the gist is the same: this person sworn to protect us made clear that he views certain types of people expendable in our society. I thank his fellow officers for reporting this heinous comment and elevating it as a punishable offense.
What Mr. Lewis said makes my stomach turn.
As I understand it, the City has two options: 1) We can either settle with Mr. Lewis by offering him $100,000 in back pay and full retirement benefits in return for ensuring that he never again be eligible for employment with any City office, or 2) We go through the process of arbitration, which may cost a little bit more money if we lose (he was on a contract and if we lose we might have to pay out the remainder of his contract plus potential overtime). If we lose, he might be eligible to work for the City again, but I ask this question: who would hire him?
These two options show that we are working within a broken system. We sit on the cusp of Black History Month, a time meant to celebrate our diverse community, and yet we are buying off individuals who believe that there is a separate justice system for people who look like them and everyone else.
The police contract is up for renegotiation in 2020, and I will make sure that myself or someone representing my office is part of these contract negotiations to ensure that the mistakes made in the past are not replicated. Until then, I will support standing strong and not making deals that reinforce this broken system.