DARYL TURNER, the bulldog-faced president of the Portland Police Association (PPA), sat placidly through most of this month's "fairness hearing" on federal police reform. While activists loudly implored a judge to reject a deal many see as too weak, Turner kept quiet.
Sure, he made faces once or twice. But he never let on what he was really thinking.
He let his attorney's court filings do the talking instead: After initially challenging the reform deal worked out between the city and the US Department of Justice, the PPA filed documents last year saying it supported an arrangement that places new limits on cops' use of force and takes steps toward improving civilian oversight of the bureau.
Turner, it turns out, was saving his real thoughts for what he assumed was a more private audience: his nearly 1,000 union members—including the front-line officers and sergeants on whose agreement and expertise the ultimate fate of police reform will hinge.
In an internal statement, first revealed by the Mercury on Friday, February 21, Turner made clear he holds little regard for the people who report police misconduct—or for an accountability system that gives interested civilians a chance to shape the fair, just, and professional police bureau they believe Portland deserves.
"Never have I been exposed to such an array of complaints directed at the men and women who risk their lives every day," Turner wrote.
"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?"
Turner even impugned the credibility of those who spoke up about rough handling and profiling (or worse) by police officers, accusing them of covering for their own misdeeds or spreading misinformation.
(There's decided irony in that. After James Chasse Jr. was beaten to death by two officers and a sheriff's deputy in 2006, the officers posthumously accused Chasse—who'd been in the throes of schizophrenia—of crimes he didn't commit. A bag of bread crumbs laughably labeled as "cocaine" comes to mind.)
Turner has said a lot of controversial things. He insensitively defended a cop accused of menacing the cop's ex-wife (although Turner claims he was misquoted). And once he said he thought putting limits on how cops use force would get them hurt more often (which hasn't come to pass).
But this is maybe the worst thing. Turner, as the guy in charge of defending cops accused of misconduct or using excessive force, holds outsized influence over a cop's life. He's arguably more important than the chief of police.
And if he doesn't think prudent civilian oversight is worth a damn, why should any of the officers who rely on him?
Turner, unfortunately, did not reply to messages asking for an explanation of his remarks. He probably never intended for the public to see them.
But it's good we did. And it's good we can see the mixed messages street-level cops are obviously receiving.