Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Disciplining Police While Ignoring Deadly Rioters

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The mayor of Portland, Oregon, where violent and even deadly riots have taken place nightly for more than 100 days, is now disciplining police officers who are accused of misconduct as they respond to rioters.

As Breitbart News reported, a majority of Portland voters disapprove of Wheeler’s job performance, and rioters have demanded he step down as mayor and police commissioner.

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), a taxpayer-funded media outlet that produces daily anti-Trump content, produced a video of a police officer “tackling and punching a protester”:

In recent weeks, the mayor has said he too is concerned the accountability process for police takes too long. Investigations by the Independent Police Review, the city agency responsible for digging into allegations of police misconduct, can drag on for months before there’s a decision. In a press conference on Aug 26, Wheeler said he wanted to meet with the police bureau to find a way to hold officers at protests “accountable in real time.”

Kristen Dennis, Wheeler’s chief of staff, said a new direction was passed on to the Chief’s office last week: certain police should be placed on administrative duty and taken off the street while investigations into potential misconduct wind their way through the system.

The officer who was captured by OPB tackling a protester and punching them repeatedly as they lay on the ground has been placed on administrative duty under the new direction, according to Dennis.

OPB reported that two additional officers had also been placed on administrative leave for unspecified reasons:

Meanwhile, Portland police issued a press release on Friday titled “Portland Police Bureau needs tools to protect community and themselves during riots that endanger life safety.”

The press release said in part:

Since May 29, 2020, Portland Police and partner agencies have been subjected to repeated violence by a group of motivated and well-organized individuals. These individuals have stated they intend to kill or injure officers and destroy occupied buildings and dwellings. Threats to commit acts of violence have been scrawled on police facilities and other property. Crowds have chanted slogans about burning down buildings on their way to attempt to do that. 

Rioters lit County offices on fire in a building which houses hundreds of inmates and public employees, as well as the Portland Police Central Precinct. Rioters barricaded doors shut at North Precinct and East Precinct and attempted to light the building on fire with employees and civilians inside. Officers have been attacked with rocks, glass bottles, frozen water bottles, lasers capable of causing permanent eye damage, ball bearings and sharp objects launched from slingshots, paint balloons (to render their face shields useless) as well as fire bombs, large fireworks, and other items. 

Banning the lawful use of CS will make it very difficult to address this kind of violence without resorting to much higher levels of physical force, with a correspondingly elevated risk of serious injury to members of the public and officers. CS, while effective, is a significantly lower level of force than impact weapons, which would very likely be necessary to disperse riotous groups with its prohibition. We do not want to use gas. We do not want to use any force. 

Police need all kinds of tools and resources to effectively respond to violence perpetrated by groups of people. Lately, it seems more tools have been taken away than added. There has been mention of research into alternative methods that may prevent the need for greater force. The Police Bureau is in favor of research, but research takes time. Removing tools without well vetted alternatives, with policies and training in place prior to their use, places police and community members at risk. No one has presented a solution of how officers can stop a rioting group who are threatening the lives of those present, especially given that in most of these cases, officers are clearly outnumbered, sometimes by hundreds. 

Arson, vandalism, and violence are not going to drive change in this community. A Police Bureau without the necessary tools to protect its own members, or the community it serves, will not successfully help create the space for real change agents to do the hard work they hope to accomplish. 

OPB said the police did not respond to a request for comment about the new direction, which is explained in detail in the bureau’s press release, posted online, and shared on social media.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.