And now Reese this morning has confirmed for the Mercury one nugget making the rounds even before all the bad press piled on his head: Because of Occupy, any formal change in his campaign status will wait longer than initially planned, likely into December.
However, Reese also acknowledges, he's begun collecting campaign checks from would-be supporters nonetheless. And while money is only one measure of a candidate's viability, it's an important one for Reese given that he'd be leaping into the race months after Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales, and Jefferson Smith. (And Max Brumm and Max Bauske.)
"There have been a couple of checks that have come through, but I don't know how many," Reese said before going on duty today, after an early morning stint coaching girls basketball. "I have a lot of people who wanted to indicate their financial support as well as their offers of encouragement. But that process has just started."
Who sent the checks, and when, ought to be known by early-December at the latest. Given the ethical bounds of Reese's current gig, especially as it intersects with pressure from likely supporters to clamp down on Occupy, those aren't trivial questions. Reese set up a state campaign account November 11, and state rules say accounts must be registered within three days after receiving or spending campaign cash. The state, however, says candidates can wait 30 days to report details about those contributions.
Certainly, Reese has been plenty busy, finding it difficult to find time to ask for money, as he straddles an awkward and potentially inappropriate line between police chief and stealth mayoral candidate.
Last Monday, he reveled in accolades for the police bureau's non-chemical eviction of Occupy Portland. Tuesday, he was in the spotlight after skipping a labor forum for candidates after taking the unusual step of asking to be included. Thursday, while riot cops were pepper-spraying protesters who'd been given conflicting directions about where to go, he sent jaws dropping on live TV by blaming Occupy for a slow response to a rape case. Friday, he walked that back, admitting he didn't know the rape actually happened 11 days before. Then, Saturday, he issued a formal apology and said he had rethought his bureau's heavy-handed response to marches.
"There's been a lot of events in the past four or five weeks that have certainly taken up a lot of my time, and the time of the men and women of the Portland Police Bureau," Reese said. "As we've gone trough those events, it's made me spend more and more time and focus my energy and efforts 100 percent on being chief of police. Or nearly 100 percent .. I have taken some steps to meet with people."
Reese's gaffe on the rape case, even more than the pepper spray, spurred a wide and furious backlash. Twitter, using the hashtag #Reese4Mayor, flared with snarky reports that the chief was also blaming things like Laura Palmer's death, and the O.J. Simpson murders, on Occupy Portland. Reese insisted today that his apology had nothing to do with politics.
"It had nothing to do with any campaign," said Reese, who also confirmed he must wait until June 2012, after the May primary, to be eligible for retirement.
He added: "Again, I've said as long as I've been chief that when the bureau makes mistakes, we admit them. And when we make mistakes as individuals, we admit them and then move forward."
His apology also included a promise to try to let Occupy marchers "self-police" their rallies, meaning making sure on their own that they stay off the streets and don't block road and train traffic. On Thursday, the biggest and longest traffic delays came only after police showed up to help marchers along. Saturday, during a well-attended march, there was nary an officer to be spotted, and the march went off just fine.
It's a sensible change—and it's being driven, it seems, as much by public outrage over Thursday as by the reality that the bureau can't keep spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and frying its cops by making them work long hours in tactical gear. Occupy seems only to be building support, now that the debate has shifted from the disposition of its encampment in Chapman and Lownsdale squares to how to plan events and focus attention on the movement's political and economic messages.
"I thought that, on Saturday, I really wanted to try something different with the protests and the marches and try to reset, from the police response, what we were doing and hopefully from the other side as well," Reese said.
Reese, as he said above, has still managed to squeeze a minute or two here and there to campaign despite all the hubbub. He said he personally wrote his lengthy statement to the Northwest Oregon Labor Forum, which offered sneak peeks at what his platform might be.
"I wrote the letter. I've had conversations with people in the community about the issues the city is facing and feel passionate about that, especially economic opportunity," he says.
Reese also addressed a report in the Oregonian that he stood up in uniform at an Urban League dinner where candidates and would-be candidates were asked to show themselves to the room. He said the initial invitation to the dinner was for elected and appointed city officials. It's a distinction h says he's minding.
"I am trying to be careful about any lines," he said, "and I am very focused on being chief."