The Portland Police Association (PPA), the rank-and-file police union, is upset with the City of Portland for acknowledging historical racism in the city and state in its job listing for a new Portland Police Bureau (PPB) chief.
"The State of Oregon and its largest city, Portland, share a history of legally sanctioned systemic racism with legally enforced exclusionary practice," the first paragraph of the job listing states. The city is going forward with a national search for a new police chief, as Mayor Ted Wheeler promised on the campaign trail, though current PPB Chief Mike Marshman has a chance of keeping his job. "Given this history, the successful candidate must demonstrate the capacity and commitment to expand on existing strategies to improve relationships with and service provision to Portland's communities of color, ensuring that equity is a bedrock of policing in Portland."
This first-paragraph acknowledgment of Oregon's reality (see: "The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in America" in The Atlantic) is offensive to PPA President Daryl Turner. The PPA wants Marshman to remain as chief.
"Understandably, the verbiage and the tenor of the job posting left many in the rank and file angry and confused, as the clear implication from the posting is that the Police Bureau and its members have supported a racist culture in the City," said Turner, who is Black, in a statement yesterday (read it in full, below). Turner says the union feels slighted by the city acknowledging racism without highlighting "the hard work, dedication, professionalism and integrity" that union members "bring to the job every day."
Mayor Ted Wheeler, in a response to the PPA letter, praised the union members but again highlighted the state's racist roots.
"I have tremendous respect for the hard work they do every day in the community," the mayor said. "At a time that calls for a shared vision and unity of purpose regarding the future of the Portland Police Bureau, today’s letter from the Portland Police Association is needlessly inflammatory and divisive. We are conducting a national search, fulfilling a commitment I made to the community last year. Anyone applying for the job should be fully aware of our state's history, and prepared to join me in ensuring that this history is just that... in the past.”
The city's search for potentially new police chief, with a salary range of $142,312 to $205,379, officially began on Monday. They are accepting applications through June 12, will interview candidates in the following weeks, and hope to have finalists identified in July.
Check out the full PPB chief job listing here. Here's Turner's full May 16 statement in response to that:
Yesterday, the Mayor posted the job announcement for police chief candidates, which led with a statement about the "history of legally sanctioned systemic racism with legally enforced exclusionary practices" in the City. Understandably, the verbiage and the tenor of the job posting left many in the rank and file angry and confused, as the clear implication from the posting is that the Police Bureau and its members have supported a racist culture in the City.
On a day that has been set aside to recognize law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others and a day dedicated to the 36th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, not a single mention was made of the hard work, dedication, professionalism, and integrity that Portland Police Bureau rank and file bring to the job every day.
There was no mention of the PPB Behavioral Health Unit’s recent national recognition for their ground-breaking efforts in working with citizens with mental illness or in a mental health crisis.
There was no mention of the, still short staffed, Gang Enforcement Team whose hard work is evident in the 40% reduction of gang shootings from this time last year.
There was no mention of the fact that although patrol officers are taking more calls for service, detective caseloads have increased, and other specialty units have been decimated by staffing cuts, our communities are still getting the exceptional services they expect and deserve.
The Police Bureau continues to struggle with inadequate staffing and, despite the baggage left after the forced retirement of ex-Chief Larry O’Dea, Chief Marshman and his staff have managed to hold the Bureau together, raising morale, providing leadership, and ensuring stability.
The job announcement neglected to reference to the strength of our rank and file who work diligently to meet the changing and evolving needs of our diverse community, embrace community-policing concepts, and continue in steadfast dedication to build trust in all the communities we serve. The foundation of the Portland Police Bureau is the rank and file who are on the ground doing the work, 24/7; they have earned, at a minimum, honorable mention.
The first paragraph of the Mayor’s job posting shows blatant disregard for the decades of forward progress and is not representative of the Portland Police Bureau today. I urge our elected officials not to discount the relationships, partnerships, and friendships that our officers have built in our city. The job announcement does not accurately reflect our Police Bureau and its members. Certainly, it does nothing to aid in recruiting and retaining a police chief, let alone rank and file officers.
Daryl Turner, President
And here's Wheeler's full response to the PPA criticism:
Our city and state have a shared history of racial injustice, from our state's original constitution – which contained an exclusion law banning black people from living here – to the hardships faced by those in Vanport before and after the flood, to the disparate outcomes for people of color in our legal system. I have spoken about this shared history at length. I have never called into question the values and beliefs of our rank and file police officers. I have tremendous respect for the hard work they do every day in the community. At a time that calls for a shared vision and unity of purpose regarding the future of the Portland Police Bureau, today’s letter from the Portland Police Association is needlessly inflammatory and divisive. We are conducting a national search, fulfilling a commitment I made to the community last year. Anyone applying for the job should be fully aware of our state's history, and prepared to join me in ensuring that this history is just that... in the past.