The executive board of the Portland police rank-and-file union voted “no confidence” in Portland’s City Council, questioning why city commissioners aren’t condemning the violence, fires and damage to businesses occurring in the city at the hands of some demonstrators.
Officer Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association, said “a small number of people have hijacked” important calls for social justice and racial equity and “used the cover of peaceful protests to burn and loot our City.”
He said he has no confidence the City Council will stop the violence, support the sworn officers on the streets or guide the Police Bureau into a new era of policing that prioritizes community safety.
“If City Council won’t stand up for Portland,‘’ he said. “We will.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty have issued statements, criticizing those causing destruction in the city. Hardesty had called for a curfew in the city in late May.
The city’s response has evolved as the protests against police brutality and systemic racism enter their 42nd day following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Other non-priority emergency calls haven’t been holding and police response times to calls are suffering as the Bureau focuses on the protest coverage, he said. “Portlanders are not as safe as they should be . They’re not getting the service they should get.”
Turner said some city commissioners have criticized police based on “knee-jerk reactions.”
“Our hands are somewhat tied based on the political dynamics of Portland, and they’ve been so for years,” Turner said.
While he said City Hall is not calling the shots in the police response to protests, he said police supervisors are well-aware of the criticism coming from some commissioners in City Hall.
A judge has temporarily restricted Police Bureau use of tear gas and less-lethal weapons as crowd control measures, unless lives or public safety is at stake.
Turner said he and Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee plan to schedule quarterly roundtable discussions with police and community members, and push for further funding to support meaningful police reform.
Turner spoke in favor of equipping officers with body-worn cameras, a step that U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon had raised six years ago when he first reviewed the city’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that called for a myriad of changes to police policies, training and oversight. The agreement stemmed from a federal investigation that found police used excessive force against people with mental illness.
Though the city had set aside money the past several years to help fund a pilot body-camera program, it never got off the ground. Mayor Ted Wheeler pulled the funding from the Police Bureau in next year’s approved budget.
Turner said the city should pursue federal funding for body cameras, noting that it will increase accountability and trust between police and the community. He also pointed out that it’s largely been videos that have captured police use of excessive force.
“Every incident we’re seeing nationwide is somehow captured on video,” Turner said, whether it’s from a dash-cam video or observer’s cell phone.
He identified an eight-point plan called “Fund police reform,‘’ which includes more crisis management teams that combine officers and social workers a return to community-based policing where officers get to know people they’re serving; national reporting of police use of force and a database of officers terminated for misconduct; and recruitment of new officers with college educations coming from diverse backgrounds.
He said he supports the continued use of a grand jury to review police shootings, not independent review by the state’s attorney general or another body.
Currently, there’s a hiring freeze in the Police Bureau, yet the Police Bureau is anticipating a wave of retirements in August and again in January. While Turner plans to retire by the end of the year, he said his 23-year-old son has applied to be a public safety support specialist with the Police Bureau.
— Maxine Bernstein
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