'The city’s become a cesspool': Police union president has strong words for Portland mayor

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In an e-newsletter sent out Monday, the president of the Portland Police Association did not mince words, calling Portland a ‘cesspool’ and his officers ‘scapegoats’ for what he calls Mayor Ted Wheeler’s ‘failed policies’ on homelessness.

“I’ve been a police officer here for 27 years, I’ve seen it go downhill,” PPA President Daryl Turner affirmed to FOX 12 on Monday. “The city’s become a cesspool.”

In the e-newsletter, Turner writes about the various livability issues the city is facing, from aggressive panhandlers and garbage-filled RV’s to used needles and human feces blocking business doorways.

This is the full text of the e-newsletter:“Our City has become a cesspool. Livability that once made Portland a unique and vibrant city is now replaced with human feces in businesses doorways, in our parks, and on our streets. Aggressive panhandlers block the sidewalks, storefronts, and landmarks like Pioneer Square, discouraging people from enjoying our City. Garbage-filled RVs and vehicles are strewn throughout our neighborhoods. Used needles, drug paraphernalia, and trash are common sights lining the streets and sidewalks of the downtown core area, under our bridges, and freeway overpasses. That's not what our families, business owners, and tourists deserve.

Mayor Wheeler's public policies have failed. Record tax revenues are being brought into the City; yet what do we have to show for it? I am incensed that once again the Mayor has thrown Portland Police Officers under the bus instead of saying what we all know to be true: that his proposed solutions to our homelessness crisis have failed. What we need is for our City and County leaders to take responsibility for this crisis getting out of hand. They need to put forth actual solutions with actual results and stop throwing hard-earned taxpayer dollars down a black hole.

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.

The Portland Police Bureau have not been given nearly enough resources to fulfill its small piece in addressing the homelessness crisis. We are understaffed. Officers are unable to spend the time needed to connect our homeless to necessary services, whether it be housing, mental health services, drug rehabilitation, or other resources. It's a recipe for failure to put the burden of the homelessness solution on the Police Bureau's shoulders and then give us insufficient resources to do the work.

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. 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.

Portland Police Officers deserve better. Our families and communities deserve better. Our businesses deserve better. Our City deserves better!”The comments come after a report from The Oregonian newspaper, which found that 52 percent of arrests made last year by Portland Police officers involved a homeless person, while the homeless represent only roughly 3 percent of the city population.

In light of the report, Mayor Ted Wheeler told The Oregonian the data warrants further review, and Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw called for the Independent Police Review to launch an investigation to determine whether the homeless are being unfairly targeted.

Turner told FOX 12 nothing could be further from the truth.

“90% of the times that police officers show up any place, they’re responding to a 911 call from someone else, we don’t just get there on our own a lot of the time,” Turner said. “A lot of the victims of these crimes are homeless too, so if we’re not investigating these crimes, if we’re not responding to these crimes, then we’re not responding to the needs of the homeless. So you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

In a statement, Chief Outlaw told FOX 12:“I requested IPR to review the data to assist me in determining if there were any PPB systems or policies that lead to unintended consequences or misalignment with the Bureau’s mission, vision and values. My officers do an amazing job with the tools they are given, and are often expected by some to solve societal problems outside of the scope of their duties and/or realm of influence. We understand that we are first responders and, at times, meet those within our community at the lowest points of their lives due to varying factors (some outside of their control). As such, we do our best to be strong partners with providers in order to connect those in need with services, while recognizing we are but one cog in the wheel of the justice and mental health systems. We are a learning organization and will continue seek opportunities to improve the service we provide by being introspective, engaging our critics, and working with all stakeholders toward meaningful and sustainable resolutions.”FOX 12 asked for an interview with Mayor Ted Wheeler on Monday regarding Turner’s comments on behalf of the PPA. Instead, a spokesperson provided this statement:

“We are reviewing the message from PPA and will continue this conversation with Daryl Turner, and the many other groups and individuals who are rightly interested in these issues.”

Turner said the issue isn’t whether you have a home, it’s whether you break the law.

“The main thing the mayor needs to stop doing is blaming other people for his failures,” Turner told FOX 12. “The Mayor, he’s in City Hall, he sits behind a desk. He’s not out there with us every day. He’s not working hard like we are every day on this issue. He’s able to then stand there and make a judgment, is this implicit bias? Is this profiling? No, it isn’t. It’s called law enforcement.”

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