The president of the Portland Police Association, the city's rank-and-file police union, took the unusual step of commenting on a story in a private statement to members, the Mercury has learned, responding to our report last week about an officer facing an investigation after he was caught on video using a racial slur commonly aimed at African Americans.
The statement by Daryl Turner, who is African American, was issued Monday. The Mercury has since obtained a copy. It opens with a caveat that "we should reserve judgment until all facts have been gathered and the investigation is complete." But then it goes on, after that nod to due process, to strongly condemn the use of racial epithets in any context.
On Friday, the Portland Mercury posted a story and video regarding a Portland Police officer’s use of a racial epithet when interacting with the public. The police bureau will investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident. As with all pending investigations, we should reserve judgment until all facts have been gathered and the investigation is complete.
It is important for all of us to use this instance as a reminder. As members of the Portland Police Bureau, it is our goal to always interact with the public with the highest level of integrity and professionalism. The PPA and its members do not condone the use of any epithet, whether based on race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. We do not condone such language in our homes, and we certainly do not condone such epithets in the line of duty.
As we further report in this week's issue, the slur used by Officer Michael Hall came during a confrontation with three men, two of them African American, outside a club near SW 2nd and Burnside in early October. The men had come down to celebrate a birthday after finishing shifts at Nordstrom, according to Yasmin Talic, one of the participants who spoke with the Mercury.
The video, just 27 seconds long, doesn't make clear whether Hall first used the slur, or if he was parroting someone else who used it first. Talic says he also doesn't remember who used it first. That distinction may not stay any discipline. Bureau rules on "courtesy" do not allow officers to use slurs on the street—only when they're on the stand or quoting someone in a police report.
Talic also told the Mercury he first tried complaining about the incident to the police bureau soon after it happened but that, in his opinion, no one took him seriously.
Turner's statement is the strongest one yet against the use of a slur by an officer—eclipsing Police Chief Mike Reese's far more measured promise to investigate and ensure cops treat people with "respect."
But it also wasn't, it seems, meant for public consumption. It does not appear on the union's website under a list of recent press releases and public statements. (Though Turner did recently post a statement complaining that Andrea Damewood—the Willamette Week reporter who's moved on to work for the Bureau of Labor and Industries—had falsely quoted him defending a cop, Jason Lobaugh, facing domestic violence allegations.)
It's obviously important for cops to know what their union president thinks—especially when he's sending a strong message against misconduct. But I'd also say it's important for the rest of us to know, too.