Portland police union taking PR push nationwide
The head of Portland's police union since 2010 and longtime beat cop Daryl Turner is going national to tackle what some officers feel is a bigger obstacle than criminals: media coverage.
This month, Turner and the Portland Police Association have joined with other police unions on the West Coast to try and engage with the media and the public at large on high-profile national issues, blasting white supremacists and highlighting dangers to police.
"We wanted to have a national voice, a voice that could speak up for law enforcement unions at a nationwide level," Turner said. "We're part of the community, too, and we want them to know that we have the same wishes and desires for our neighborhoods as everyone else."
Thus far, the new effort, called the United Coalition of Public Safety, or UCOPS, has issued three news releases that seek to tap into trending national coverage, including the violent attacks in Charlottesville, attacks on police, and white supremacists.
Police don't support bigotry or violence, the group says.
"We're in a tough time, but we're in it together," says Turner, who is African-American. "So the only way to get out of it is together."
Heightened national attention to fatal shootings in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has contributed to a feeling of being under siege for police.
A recent Pew Research poll found that four out of five officers feel their work is portrayed unfairly in the media, and 40 percent of cops feel that strongly. That feeling is highest among officers with poor morale, frustration and anger about their job, the study found.
In Portland, protesters have increasingly highlighted police shootings and put pressure on City Hall over issues ranging from the recent police union contract, to a policy that was viewed as giving officers too much time after a shooting before being interviewed.
In the face of such coverage, the UCOPS mission is "to publicly promote, through education and outreach, the exceptional work of law enforcement officers in our communities."
In August, UCOPS has gone out of its way to distance police from some of the organizations that try to align themselves with police.
On Aug. 21, the group responded to coverage of how white supremacists have adopted an American flag that bears a blue line, previously a symbol of police.
The UCOPS statement blasted "the hijacking of our symbol," saying "it does not represent hate, prejudice or bigotry; any group, such as Antifa, that makes such claims is lying to further their agenda of anti-police rhetoric and hate of law enforcement."
In addition to Portland, the founding members of the group include unions in Seattle, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, Long Beach and Los Angeles and San Francisco. The member unions contribute dues to the group, which has hired a Washington, D.C., public relations firm. The group's statements are emailed out by the Portland union, but UCOPS is based in San Francisco — where its bank account is, Turner says.
While Turner's style is to offer a progressive, kinder and gentler tone, a board member of the group who represents the police union in San Francisco, Martin Halloran, offered a more aggressive depiction of the UCOPS mission, saying it was set up to "fight the media assault."
"Over the past two years, criticism of law enforcement by some in the political arena, by certain media organizations, and certainly by the anti-police professional protestors has reached a frenzied state," he wrote in a May alert to members of his union. "The unrest has largely been based on false accusations and misinformation about our profession. We law enforcement labor organizations up and down the West Coast of the United States have had enough. We have organized and are united to fight the media assault.
"We recognize that improvements can and should be made within our noble profession [but] the great work done, day in and day out, by the men and women in our agencies goes unrecognized and under-reported."