The city is in the midst of an internal investigation into the use of a far-right, anti-protester meme in a PPB training presentation.
According to the city, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) training presentation was created at some point in 2018, but was re-discovered by a PPB employee in September 2021 while reviewing records requested through a lawsuit against the city. The entire presentation appears to be training for crowd control tactics, those used by PPB in response to public demonstrations. Those tactics, used against Portlanders during 2020 racial justice protests, are the central focus of several lawsuits against the city.
The city chose to make the presentation public Friday, since it was slated to be shared in a court filing from lawyers representing he nonprofit Don't Shoot Portland in a lawsuit against the city later in the day.
The image, which is on the presentation's final slide, depicts an armored person in a black helmet punching another person (who appears to be a lot less armored) in the head. The image is layered with text, which reads:
"And the Lord said...
Woe be unto you, dirty hippy;
Four thou stinketh of patchouli and BO;
For thou talk of Marx, yet know him not;
For thou hast bills, yet have not paid;
For thou hast dreadlocks and white skin.
And so I shall send among you,
My humble servants with hat, and with bat;
That they may christen your heads with hickory;
And anoint your faces with pepper spray.
And once thou hast been cuffed and stuffed;
Once thou has been stitched and bandaged;
Perhaps thou shall learn,
I'm tired of your shit.
According to the website Know Your Meme, this image has been called the "Prayer of the Alt-Knight" and is attributed to a far-right activist named Kyle Chapman (also known as "Based Stickman"). Chapman is the founder of a group called the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as the “tactical defense arm” of the Proud Boys.
It's no secret that some in Oregon law enforcement are sympathetic to far-right groups. Analysis by OPB last year found that more than two dozen current and former law enforcement officers in Oregon were members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group that played a prominent role on the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. And, in 2019, text messages obtained by the Mercury found that a Portland police lieutenant had helped Joey Gibson, the leader of right-wing Washington group Patriot Prayer, avoid counter-protesters during a 2018 rally in Portland.
The internal affairs investigation into the use of this image in city training opened in September 2021 and is still ongoing. Retired PPB officer Bob Day lead the bureau's training division in 2018, when the training presentation was allegedly made. It's still unclear who created this slideshow and how frequently it had been shared in trainings.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as Portland's police commissioner, reacted to the image in a media statement sent Friday.
“I am disgusted that this offensive content was added to a training presentation for our police officers," Wheeler said. "As soon as I was made aware of the incident, I reached out to Chief Lovell, who shared my deep concern and assured me that a thorough and complete investigation was underway."
In a separate statement PPB Chief Chuck Lovell said, "The message on the training presentation slide was contrary to PPB's values and what we are trying to achieve as an organization."
"I want to make it clear that the content of this message is not representative of the Portland Police Bureau," Lovell said, "and it is disappointing to all of us who work so hard to earn the community's trust."