TWICE THIS MONTH, Daryl Turner—the president of the rank-and-file Portland Police Association—went public with an extremely damning critique of the federally mandated use-of-force reforms that his members must soon abide by.
Seizing on a high-profile string of reported police injuries in recent weeks, Turner is playing a cold game to drive a message he wants his members to hear: Using constitutional levels of force, especially during encounters with people perceived to be suffering from a mental illness, is going to get officers hurt—or worse. And he's got their backs.
First, he took to his union's newsletter, Rap Sheet, to vent about the city's agreement with the US Department of Justice. Then he amplified that message in an interview the Oregonian published over the holiday weekend.
"It's giving the officers cause for pause, because they're thinking in their mind about the DOJ," Turner told the daily paper, "and they don't think they're going to get the support of their leaders."
But Turner's complaints overlook something. Those proposed changes—prizing de-escalation, pushing restraint on Taser use, and judging cops on the decisions that lead them to use force—have yet to take effect. They're still being worked on, revised, and polished. And, curiously, police accountability advocates on the other side of the issue have lodged serious concerns that they won't go far enough to actually ease police misconduct.
So what's really going on? Sources in city hall say Turner—who hasn't returned my calls asking his thoughts about the federal reforms—is shouting loudly and dramatically because that's about the only way Mayor Sam Adams will actually listen to him.
Turner is mostly out to hammer home the point that no one in city hall consulted him or his executive board when working out the city's deal with the feds—and he's threatened, as I've previously hinted ["Real Change for the Cops? Eh." Hall Monitor, Nov 7], that he expects to hash out his beefs at the bargaining table.
"No officers, sergeants, or investigators were asked by Portland Police Bureau management for their input regarding these policy changes prior to a draft which was sent out to all sworn bureau personnel," Turner wrote in his newsletter on November 8.
Turner does have regular check-ins with Chief Mike Reese and the Portland Bureau of Human Resources, about a host of issues. But a records request to Adams' office appears to broadly confirm that complaint. Asked for emails and written correspondence to and from the union specifically about the federal settlement, Adams' staffers supplied absolutely nothing. As in zilch.
Turner may not appreciate being shut out of Adams' third-floor offices—but sources say it should come as no surprise.
Turner was unsparingly harsh and personal over Adams' decision to crusade against an arbitrator's decision to reinstate Ron Frashour, the cop who killed Aaron Campbell. He accused Adams of showing "questionable integrity" and launching a "personal vendetta." He accused Adams and Reese of conspiring to fire Frashour before Reese was appointed chief—a charge found unproven by an independent city investigation convened at Turner's request.
And, sources say, it's long been noticed among Adams loyalists that Turner has never properly thanked the mayor for presiding over a generous contract in 2011, and protecting cops from layoffs, despite citywide budget cuts.
Right now, Turner isn't someone anyone in city hall wants to do business with.
Relations may improve next month, when Mayor-elect Charlie Hales takes over the police bureau... but maybe not by much. Hales says (for now) he's keeping Reese around, and it's no secret that Reese also holds little esteem for Turner.
It could be, if we're to see a federal deal that everyone can get behind, that Turner—and not his sparring partners—ought to be the one who adjusts.