PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The union representing Portland police officers leveled harsh words at city and state leaders amid ongoing unrest and escalating violence in the streets.
Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner called on city leaders to unify and give police the support they need to keep Portland safe. Turner said Tuesday elected officials should have collectively condemned the violence long before someone’s life was taken.
“It’s come to a point where citizens are looking for help, law enforcement is looking for help. We’re not getting the support we need from our city leaders,” Turner said.
The Portland Police Bureau ushered in its new chief in early June at the same time City Council cut $15 million from the bureau’s budget. Chuck Lovell had been with the PPB since May 2002 before being named as former Chief Jami Resch’s successor.
“Around 85 positions were taken away from our staffing — levels that were already anemic and already catastrophic — and he’s had that to work with for three months through almost 90 days of protests,” Turner said.
The PPA president reaffirmed his plea for city and state leaders to “untie” the hands of police so they can re-establish peace. Turner said the people of Portland are living in fear as violent individuals target police precincts and administrative buildings nestled in residential neighborhoods.
“Right now our hands are tied and they need to be untied,” he said. “There needs to be a zero-tolerance initiative for protest violence, gun violence and all violence in the city right now and that’s not being done.”
Many officials have lamented that ongoing nightly protests are seriously undermining and detracting from the larger Black Lives Matter message. Portland continues to make national headlines as a city plagued by individuals intent on vandalism and looting after the sun goes down.
Most nights are marked by fires lit in the middle of city streets, obscene graffiti left on law enforcement buildings and physical clashes between responding officers and those instigating the chaos. Nineteen people were arrested Monday night and a fire was lit inside an apartment building in Northwest Portland as protesters gathered near where they believer Mayor Ted Wheeler resides.
On Sunday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown revealed her Unified Law Enforcement Plan which aims to protect free speech and simultaneously quell the nightly violence. The strategy hinges in part on the help of law enforcement agencies previously uninvolved in Portland protests to bolster the PPB. But both agencies Brown named — the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office — will not send back up into the city. Both committed only to supporting Portland police in indirect ways.
“PPB is a terrific partner and I am very sympathetic to what they are enduring,” said Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett in his response to Brown. “However, the lack of political support for public safety, the uncertain legal landscape, the current volatility combined with intense scrutiny on use of force presents an unacceptable risk if deputies were deployed directly.”
The Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association also weighed in on Brown’s plan, saying they would not be tapping their resources to aid the PPB on the streets during protest nights, and calling for “a strong statement by elected leadership at all levels that criminal acts are not legitimate protest and that those who commit crimes will be held accountable… There must be publicly voiced support for Law Enforcement and its efforts to protect lawful protesters and hold criminal violators accountable in a very different environment.”
Turner said the time is now for city leaders to present a unified front and condemn the destructiveness and violence and to support Chief Lovell who stepped up to “a job that was more than just difficult.”
“We have an amazing group of men and women who are out there night after night, who are coming to work through all the criticism, through all the abuse, through all the injuries, through all the assaults — because they work for the people who live in this city,” Turner said. “It’s easy for people to say they are not going to work, they are not going to do this anymore. But they come in every night knowing the abuse they are going to get, knowing they are not going to get support from our elected officials, knowing that in fact that elected officials are trying to defund us when the only way to make positive change is to fund that.”
Defunding the police doesn’t leave room for “evolution and reform at the same time,” according to Turner. He pointed to record numbers of shootings and homicides over the past two months — a bleak reality that he says is directly linked to City Council’s defunding of the PPB’s Gun Violence Reduction Team at the start of the summer.
“They are going to make it so the city of Portland is not a safe place to live. If they want to go by stats, the numbers tell the truth. They can deny it all they want; they’ve made horrible mistakes and instead of fixing them they want to point the finger at someone else,” Turner said. “This is not the time to put your head in a hole and hide. This is the time to stand and stand strong.”
KOIN 6 News has reached out to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, city commissioners and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office and will update this story when we receive responses.