PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – The Portland Police Bureau is launching an internal investigation into text messages between Police Lieutenant Jeffrey Niiya and Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson revealed in an article published by the Willamette Week Thursday.
The Portland Police Bureau released this statement late Thursday night:
“During the week of February 11th, 2019, The Portland Police Bureau released documents in accordance to multiple public records requests for text conversations between Lieutenant Jeff Niiya and Joey Gibson. These conversations have generated a lot of public interest. For transparency, the Portland Police Bureau has posted all of the documents in their entirety at the following link: www.portlandoregon.gov/police/78708
The Portland Police Bureau has strong organizational values that encompass integrity and accountability. We have also pledged transparency to our community," said Chief Danielle Outlaw. "I have directed an internal investigation to review the context of these communications and determine if any Bureau directives were violated. If anything is identified that is deemed outside of our values and directives, it will be addressed."
This comes after Mayor Ted Wheeler called for an investigation into the text messages.
Wheeler says he is disturbed by what he learned in those messages, which he says appear to cross boundaries and raise questions about whether warrants are being enforced.
Here's Wheeler's statement:
“The released text messages, which I learned about in today’s Willamette Week, are disturbing.
Community members have long expressed concerns about police bias during demonstrations. Incidents like this contribute to the distrust that so many people have about the Portland Police Bureau. This creates a mandate for specific training to identify and combat white supremacy. It is imperative for law enforcement to remain objective and professional, and in my opinion, these text messages appear to cross several boundaries. They also raise questions about whether warrants are being enforced consistently and what information is being shared with individuals who may be subject to arrest.
Moreover, the texts appear to unnecessarily encourage Joey Gibson, the leader of a group that perpetrates hate speech and violence. Demonstrations that he has led have caused significant disruption and increased fear in our community. I have directed Chief Outlaw to do a thorough investigation of this matter and report back to me expeditiously.”
Through a records request FOX 12 obtained its own copy of those texts.
The texts FOX 12 obtained start in 2017 leading up to what Gibson says was his first major protest in Portland that summer.
In one text, Lt. Niiya appears to give Gibson tactical information during a rally in June 2017.
It read: “Nows a great time to break down the rally and be able to leave. We have a large group of antifa trying to flank us and you. We are stopping them for now....but not sure how long”
The next day, Lt. Niiya thanks Gibson in this text: “Joey I'm sure your phone is blowing up. But I wanted to say thank you for cooperating with me through this. I appreciate it.”
Gibson replies: “My pleasure. Thanks for everything you guys do.”
In September 2017, Lt. Niiya and Gibson text logistics about a potential presence in Vancouver.
Gibson tells Lt. Niiya to keep Patriot Prayer plans under wraps: “Just make sure they know not to tell people. If it gets out I will be pretty frustrated.”
Lt. Niiya replies: “Ok I understand. I'll keep it tight as I can. I want you to know you can trust me. Don't want to burn that”
In December 2017 Lt. Niiya gives Gibson a heads up about a member in his group referred to as “Tiny.”
Lt. Niiya: "BTW, make sure Tiny has his court stuff taken care of. I was told on the radio at the Jamison Sq event he had a warrant. I told them we would not be arresting Tiny right now. So please be sure he’s good to go before coming down”
Here was Gibson’s response later on in that conversation: “Whoever Tiny is talking to at the courts they said they would take care of it Monday”
Lt. Niiya: “Ok. Just make sure he doesn’t do anything which may draw our attention. If he still has the warrant in the system (I don’t run you guys so I don’t personally know) the officers could arrest him. I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason.”
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty also released this statement: “I am not shocked, and I am not surprised at today’s reporting of Lt. Jeff Niiya’s collaboration with Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson over text to provide aid and support for their hate marches. This story, like many that have come before it, simply confirms what many in the community have already known – there are members of the Portland police force who work in collusion with right-wing extremists.
The time for indignation and feigned outrage is past, and the time for meaningful accountability is here. There are many examples of the Mayor and the City Council standing by, wringing our hands, wishing we could take action. Today is a new opportunity to demand the policing our community deserves – policing that treats all community members with respect and allows for peaceful protest free of intimidation and bias.
We have failed before, but we do not need to continue to fail. The incidents we hear about are not “one off’s” but everyday examples of a broken policing system in Portland that must be addressed. I look forward to supporting actions of accountability. I ask that the Mayor and Police Chief Outlaw take swift action and I will also be here to demand justice if that call is not met.
I stand with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other community groups who ask for the following:
1. The City accelerates the Western States designed training that came out of the recent resolution condemning white supremacy and
2. An independent investigation into collaboration between Portland Police and alt-right/white supremacists groups and individuals, with the investigator being chosen by community groups.”
FOX 12 reached out to Gibson to get his response to the text messages.
He says he’s not embarrassed or concerned about them because he thinks it’s good that leaders from activist groups and police have good communication with each other.
“I just think that having respect for one another, the texts between me and the sergeant I think that's a good thing, I think we need more of that,” Gibson said. “I think people should really think about why they're so upset that there was respect between a leader of an activist group and a leader in the police station that have to meet each other on the streets all the time.”
As for the part of Wheeler’s statement, “the texts appear to unnecessarily encourage Joey Gibson, the leader of a group that perpetrates hate speech and violence,” this was Gibson’s response: “I think that Ted Wheeler needs to put forward any video evidence of my hate speech so he can collect $2000 it's a bounty that we have up,” Gibson said. “There's deep-seated hatred in the city of Portland and they're trying to distract with the so-called white supremacy,” Gibson said. “Why do you think they say when everything I do and say is against hatred, is against white supremacy is against racism all that everything I do and say is against that , but that's all they can say over and over and over again if there's white supremacists show me, let's talk about it let's have a conversation you can't just throw that around.”
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