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City of Portland

Update 3/12: In a phone call with the Mercury, Nelson explained that the decision to leave the time-consuming city job was based solely on his desire to spend more time with his family. "I made a conscious decision to make more time to be around my kids," Nelson said. "There's never going to be a good time to leave this position. I had to think about what was best for my family."


Original story:
Berk Nelson, Mayor Ted Wheeler's senior policy advisor on public safety and livability (read: police) is resigning.

According to the mayor's office, Nelson has accepted a government relations position with Umpqua Bank. His last day is Friday, March 15.

Nelson is leaving in the midst of an investigation into how the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) engages with activists, an issue that Nelson is directly involved with.

The investigation, sparked by text message transcripts made public by the Mercury and Willamette Week, revealed a close, protective relationship between PPB Lt. Jeff Niiya and Joey Gibson, leader of the Vancouver, WA alt-right group Patriot Prayer. For some, the conversations confirmed a suspicion that alt-right groups received preferential treatment by police officers during their violent protests.

Nelson was Lt. Niiya's direct line to the mayor's office, and has texted Niiya to request information about Patriot Prayer's movement during a protest. In an interview with the Oregonian, Nelson said he was aware that Niiya was in contact with Gibson, but he just "didn’t know to what extent the conversations took place.’’

Nelson has also played a role in trying to prosecute members of Patriot Prayer for past acts of violence during Portland protests. He recently shared his frustrations about the drawn-out process with Willamette Week.

"This has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me because I have gained immeasurable insight into how government serves the community," Nelson said in a Friday press release. "I am grateful to the Mayor for giving me this opportunity. I have made many friends and partnerships along the way that I will carry into my next position.”