Update, September 26:
After publishing this story, the Mercury received more information about the referenced text messages between Gibson and Outlaw from PPB spokesperson Kristina Jones. Jones wrote the following in an email:
"Chief Outlaw told me she has not texted Joey Gibson. I spoke with Lieutenant Niiya and we are assuming this is stemming from the transcript of his interview where he says he was texting Joey and the Chief. Lt. Niiya clarified to me that did not mean there was a three way text group between them, rather, he was texting Joey and then separately he was texting the Chief."
A newly released city interview with a Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officer raises the question of whether PPB Chief Danielle Outlaw has ever communicated with Joey Gibson, leader of the far-right Vancouver, Washington based group Patriot Prayer. Though PPB denies any exchanges between Gibson and Outlaw, the interview transcript suggests otherwise.
On Thursday, Outlaw and Mayor Ted Wheeler announced that an investigation led by the Independent Police Review, a branch of the city auditor’s office, had cleared Lieutenant Jeff Niiya of any wrongdoing. Niiya was under investigation after text messages between him and Gibson—which were obtained by the Mercury and Willamette Week through public records requests and published in February—raised the question of if Niiya had been overly friendly with or protective toward Gibson and his fellow Patriot Prayer members.
After announcing IPR’s findings, the city released a trove of documents used in the investigation, including a transcript of an interview between Niiya and IPR investigator Andrea Damewood. (Full disclosure: Damewood writes food and drink reviews for the Mercury, but does not have any involvement with our news reporting.)
Their conversation is wide-ranging, and at one point they discuss the nature of police liaison work. Niiya makes the point that it’s common for police liaisons to communicate with people who could potentially pose a danger to officer or public safety, and also asks that IPR look “for improvements in the process” of both how PPB’s liaisons are trained and how they do their jobs. Niiya then says this:
“What has happened with me and how can we do better because when the chief of police knows—our current chief of police is someone else that knew about my text messages. There's text messages that you have between me and the chief and Joey, so when the highest level of people in this organization are aware of things, they need—they need to understand that there is a chain that everyone's held accountable and that we need to do better around this.”
Niiya appears to be saying two things here: both that Chief Outlaw was aware of the texts shared between Niiya and Gibson, and that she participated in some of those text conversations.
When reached for comment via email, PPB spokesperson Brad Yakots told the Mercury, “I can confirm that Chief Outlaw never had communication with Joey Gibson.”
Yakots declined to comment on why Niiya would make the remark about “text messages that you have between me and the chief and Joey” if Outlaw has never communicated with Gibson.
At a Thursday press conference announcing the results of the investigation, both Outlaw and Wheeler referred to “11,000 text messages” that would be released as part of the investigation documents. After the press conference, PPB sent out a clarifying press release stating that only texts “which were relevant to their investigation” would be included in the documents, rather than all 11,000 messages.
The Mercury has submitted a public records requests for any communications between Gibson and Outlaw.