PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hundreds of texts and emails, released by the Portland Police Bureau, seem to show a friendly relationship between Lt. Jeff Niiya and Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson.
The story was first published in the Willamette Week — prompting Mayor Ted Wheeler to order an investigation into the text exchange he called “disturbing.”
The Portland Police Bureau released a statement late Thursday night, along with a link to “all of the documents in their entirety” relating to text conversations between Niiya and Gibson.
The newly released documents show hundreds of texts between Niiya and Gibson during 2017 and 2018, which is when multiple protests erupted between Patriot Prayer and Antifa.
In one of the texts, sent on Dec. 8, 2017, Niiya wrote to Gibson, “When you don’t get intimidated and show you care they do it no reason to do it. And yes I don’t think this will be a huge deal. I’m thinking it will be a lot like the last one. BTW, make sure Tiny has his court stuff taken care of. I was told on the radio at the Jamison Sq event he had a warrant. I told them we would not be arresting Tiny right now. So please be sure he’s good to go before coming down.”
Up until Friday morning, Niiya was in charge of PPB’s rapid response team that responds to protests — raising questions about whether Portland Police helped Patriot Prayer avoid arrests.
However, PPB said that Niiya will not participate in rapid response team-related activities until an investigation can be completed. He’s also been instructed to not have any further conversations with event organizers.
In a statement late Thursday afternoon, Wheeler seemed to agree that the messages may show police bias.
“These text messages appear to cross several boundaries,” the mayor said. “The texts appear to unnecessarily encourage Joey Gibson, the leader of a group that perpetrates hate speech and violence.”
Wheeler said he ordered PPB Chief Danielle Outlaw “to do a thorough investigation of this matter and report back to me expeditiously.” Outlaw later released a statement saying she has directed an internal investigation.
However, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty told KOIN 6 News on Friday morning that an internal investigation isn’t good enough. She said the bureau should seek outside, independent investigators.
Hardesty also released a statement Thursday saying she wasn’t surprised by the messages.
She called on Wheeler and Outlaw to “take swift action” and added that she “will also be here to demand justice if that call is not met.”
Outlaw responded Friday.
The text messages between Niiya and Gibson take place before, during and after some of the high-profile protests that roiled the city in the 2 years since Donald Trump became president.
It’s not clear whether Niiya or other PPB officials were talking with members of Antifa.
After news of the texts broke on Thursday, CAIR Oregon, the Oregon Justice Resource Center and Western States Center released a joint statement.
The groups called the report “just the latest news showing an inappropriate and disproportionate response to alt–right groups from PPB.”
The PPB responds
A community listening session has been scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 21 from 6-8 p.m. at the Maranatha Church, located at 4222 NE 12th Ave. The goal is to hear concerns and solutions from the public.
Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson responds
KOIN 6 News will continue following this story.