Portland, Oregon is facing a severe shortage of police officers due to “the intense anti-police sentiment in our City that City Council seems to share,” Daryl Turner, the head of the Portland Police Union said in a press release on Monday.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and other city leaders criticized police earlier this year after it was revealed a police lieutenant in charge of containing protests in the liberal city texted repeatedly with the leader of a far-right group involved in demonstrations. Wheeler said police must remain objective and the texts appeared to “cross several boundaries.”
Wheeler was referring to texts between police Lt. Jeff Niiya and Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson. Patriot Prayer is a conservative group based in Portland that advocates in favor of free speech and against big government. Niiya was the crowd control liaison on the Rapid Response Team, where his job was to “reach out to leaders of protests to try to gauge their plans and help the bureau prepare for demonstrations.”
After the friendly texts were discovered, Niiya was transferred to the bureau’s Professional Standards Division.
At a City Council meeting last week, Portland Police Bureau Chief Danielle Outlaw said that there are 120 vacancies in what should be a department of 1,000 officers. Worse yet, only three out of 60 recent applicants were able to pass the background check.
The most common reasons for the disqualifications were past drug use or dishonesty in their application, KOIN reported.
Although marijuana is legal in Oregon, police applicants who have smoked the weed in the past year are ineligible for the police force because it remains illegal under federal law.
In his Monday statement, Turner argued that the officer shortage isn’t about the background checks, but the fact that most qualified applicants would rather be working for another department than “working under a microscope in a highly politicized city.”
News of the police shortage comes after many months of controversy and turmoil on the streets of Portland.
Recently, Oregon Live reported that staff for two Portland Commissioners met with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson “to strategize over the city labor contract with the Portland police officers’ union.”
Mckesson, 33, met with the officials as part of his work managing Campaign Zero, a group that reviews police union contracts nationwide and points out what it says are policies that shield officers from accountability for misconduct.
We led a worksession today with activists and advocates in Portland today at City Hall to discuss avenues for structural change. It was incredible to be in a room of such solution-oriented advocates ready to do deep, sustained work. I’m pumped!
— deray (@deray) March 14, 2019
Last summer, anti-ICE protesters were allowed to camp out outside a Portland ICE facility–stinking up the whole neighborhood for over five weeks–until the city finally decided to evict them. Portland Police had the unenviable task of clearing out the premises while being called Nazis and killers.
Then, last fall, left-wing agitators, including Black Lives Matter and antifa, took to the streets of Portland to protest a police shooting that resulted in the death of an alleged gangbanger. A Portland grand jury later determined that the officers’ use of deadly force was a “lawful act of self-defense.”
For weeks, police were forced to listen to agitators chanting anti-cop slurs as they blocked streets and harassed law-abiding residents.
During a clash between some right-wing groups and antifa groups last November, independent journalist Andy Ngo was harassed and assaulted while dozens of police stood by.
Ngo said he could not file a police report because his assailants were wearing masks and that the experience had convinced him that the city of Portland needs to adopt an ordinance banning masks at rallies.
“The city’s lack of authority has emboldened extremists to exploit ways to maximize criminal activity & harassment with impunity,” he said.
A reporter recently asked Mayor Wheeler how he plans to deal with Portland’s growing police shortage.
“We’re reaching out to communities of color, we’re looking to recent immigrants to the United States, we’re looking to more women,” Wheeler replied, voicing the general consensus of the city council–which that more diversity will fix the problem.