The Portland Police Association (PPA) isn't happy with Mayor Ted Wheeler.
In a long Facebook message posted this afternoon, likely penned by PPA President Daryl Turner, the police union excoriated Wheeler for expecting the police to solve the city's unaffordable housing (and, resulting homelessness) crisis.
"The rank and file of the Portland Police Bureau are working tirelessly to improve livability in our city, preserve public safety, and connect our vulnerable communities to social services," the post reads. "We are the first line resource on the streets serving the public—including the homeless—every day with care and professionalism. The fact that our officers have become the scapegoats for Mayor Wheeler’s failed public policies aimed at solving our homelessness crisis is insulting."
The PPA writes the mounting side-effects of homelessness (like public camping, public defecation, and "garbage-filled RVs") have turned Portland into a "cesspool."
Here's the complete Facebook post:
This message is most likely the result of long-simmering tension in the PPA—but it was probably stoked by a data-driven story published by the Oregonian on June 27. The sweeping investigative report found that 52 percent of all Portland arrests in 2017 were of people who were experiencing homelessness. Only 3 percent of the city's population, however, fits that description. This disproportionate finding sparked outrage in Portland's homeless advocacy circles and civil rights organizations like the ACLU—which eventually prompted Wheeler to announce an investigation into the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) to determine whether officers are unfairly profiling Portland's houseless population.
"The real question here is, 'Is there some sort of profiling or implicit bias?'" Wheeler told the Oregonian in an interview last week. "From my perspective, that's the crux of the situation. The police should be focused on policing criminal activity, and that's sort of the beginning, the middle and the end of it for me."
PPA's Turner responded to this direct quote in today's Facebook message:
"True to form, instead of standing up and leading, Mayor Wheeler has reverted to the, 'Is there some sort of profiling or implicit bias by the cops' rhetoric to smokescreen his own failed policies. Will investigating our officers result in more housing for the homeless? Will it provide more mental health or addiction resources for those in need? Will it resolve the livability issues that Portland residents and business owners face daily? Of course not! It’s more of the same from the Mayor; failed policies and blaming others for his failures."
Homeless advocacy groups don't necessarily disagree. In a quickly-circulating online petition, a group of local housing advocates are calling on Wheeler and his fellow city commissioners to cut the number of police officers and use the funds to increase access to affordable housing, and mental health and addiction services. The petition, which has collected nearly 1,800 signatures, also asks city council to allow houseless Portlanders to create their own self-governed camps until the city's affordability crises abates.
Israel Bayer, longtime advocate for Portland's houseless (and former executive director of Street Roots), also shifts the direct blame from the city's police to the city's policy-makers.
"The mass arrests of people on the streets aren’t a reflection of the integrity of police officers," writes Bayer in message to the Mercury. "It’s about creating smart public policy that isn’t driven by neighborhood complaints and works towards creating collaborative harm reduction approaches that give people on the streets a fighting chance at ending their homelessness."
This isn't the first time the PPA has publicly slammed Wheeler. In 2017, the PPA thought the city's job positing for a new police chief made the PPB sound racist, and penned Wheeler a heated letter. Wheeler called the letter "needlessly inflammatory and divisive."
How will he chose to respond this time?