Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner sat through most of this week's day-and-a-half-long "fairness hearing" on federal police reform in Portland, keeping quiet while some five dozen speakers went before US District Court Judge Michael Simon—many of them begging the judge to reject a reform plan many believe is too weak.
The rank-and-file union boss very occasionally made faces during the hearing, but he didn't let on how he felt. Until today. He sent a statement to his nearly 1,000 members saying he left the courthouse so shaken he was "wondering why we do the work we do."
He questioned the credibility of the speakers who recounted their own accusations of police misconduct and disappointing oversight. He made clear he doesn't think much of civilian oversight, even in the limited form Portland provides it. And he also took a shot at former Mayor Sam Adams—who initially negotiated the reform agreement in 2012—by calling out the Beau Breedlove scandal.
(Adams was investigated by the state attorney general's office but never charged; I guess this means Turner has no problem with publicly hectoring cops who've been accused of misconduct and actually found in violation by bureau commanders—even if an arbitrator ultimately overturned that discipline?)
The comments do not bode well for Simon's helpful suggestion that the US Department of Justice and city of Portland might consider amending the agreement to accommodate community concerns. The agreement includes some recommendations on collecting more data on racial disparities and tighter oversight mechanisms, but mostly deals with findings on how officers use force against people in mental health crisis.
The current deal went before the judge only after Turner's union won some changes—most significantly in how the bureau wrote its new use of force policy—and reluctantly gave its approval last December.
Turner seems to have already budged as much as he's willing to budge.
For all of Tuesday and half of Wednesday Tom Perkins, Anil Karia, our labor attorney, and I sat and listened as community organizations, community members and attorneys took their turn to bash Portland Police Officers. Even as a 23 year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau, never have I been exposed to such an array of complaints directed at the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect those who fall victim to crime, misfortune, or crisis.
Hours of testimony was presented; police reform organizations praising a former Mayor who was the subject of an Oregon Attorney General’s investigation, citizens by the dozen who recounted police misconduct and brutality while they themselves were not involved in any wrongdoing, and misinformation. I left the Federal Courthouse wondering why we do the work we do. Why do we put ourselves at risk on a daily basis? And why do we expose ourselves to the scrutiny of those who have never walked in our shoes? And then it came to me, like it always does. Because it’s just what we do!
I commend Judge Simon for listening to everyone’s testimony, reading every letter, and watching every video. He has shown the ultimate professionalism through this entire process, which in itself is amazing.
As always, the Portland Police Association will allow the process to run its course and face any challenges along the way as we draw to a conclusion of this long and laborious journey.
Turner's comments do not appear on a list of news releases on the PPA's website. But Turner has said some of this stuff publicly before. Earlier this month, he took to his union's newsletter to expound on his distaste for a police accountability system he thinks isn't fair to cops—and that the feds had criticized as "Byzantine" and "self-defeating."
Until our City leaders put their thumbs down on these violators, cops doing their jobs will end up holding the Governmental Interest bag. Until our City leaders stop depending on organizations like PARC, OIR, IPR and CRC, none of whom are cops nor have ever been cops, to tell us how to do our jobs (which is like a bad Holiday Inn commercial). And until our City leaders bring in real cops to determine the tools needed for us to do our jobs, the rank and file of the Portland Police Bureau will have that dark cloud of Governmental Interest hanging over their heads on every call and every interaction they have with the citizens and communities that they have protected better than any law enforcement agency in the nation.