Portland mayor to propose police reforms next week
Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Friday, June 5, that he will propose reforms to combat systemic racism in the Portland Police Bureau and other city agencies this coming week.
Wheeler later announced he will consider banning the use of tear gas against protesters for 30 days and suspend the use of an acoustic defense used by a police sound truck during early Friday morning confrontations downtown.
Wheeler made the first announcement during a noon press conference called to discuss the week of protest that have taken place since the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
"Next week, I plan to share more about a suite of actions that I believe will address police reform and accountability in this city," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said the reforms are growing out of conversations he is having with community members, including African-American leaders who are sharing what it is like to grow up black in Portland. He said some will address "the use of force" by the police.
In response to questions from the press, Wheeler said he is yet not willing to ban the police from using tear gas and other irritants, as City Commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Jo Ann Hardesty, and others, are demanding. Wheeler said he must first be assured they are other means for disrupting threatening crowds that do not involve greater uses of force of endanger the lives of the offices.
Later Friday, after learning that Seattle had banned tear gas for 30 days, Wheeler said he will consider doing the same.
Wheeler also said he is not willing to proposing cutting the Portland Police Bureau budget to zero as some protesters have demanded. Wheeler said criminal activity takes place every day that prompts people to call for help, and the police must be able to continue responding to crimes like home break-ins.
And Wheeler said he will not resign, as some protesters also are demanding.
"I am committed to change," Wheeler said.
Wheeler also said that he has witnessed many protests during his time as mayor, but these feel different than before.
"This one is completely different. First of all, protesters span all demographics in this community, race, age, gender, geography," he said. "They are coming together and finding common ground.
"With each passing day, there seems to be more energy, more solidarity."
Earlier in the week, Wheeler announced his support for removing Portland police as School Resource Officers from the public schools.
Despite a predominantly peaceful night of protests in Portland on Thursday, 12 people were arrested after fires were set, items were thrown at officers and street racing was taking place downtown during the early morning hours.
Deputy Portland Police Chief Chris Davis addressed some of the violence that has flared up after the peaceful protests end. He said it is caused by a small group of people who stay downtown after most protesters leave.
"We are seeing a big distinction between protest groups and people who splinter off of those groups and stay downtown to engage in activity like we saw last night," Davis said.
At one point, Davis said, a police sound truck was attacked. Lasers were directed at the driver, which can be dangerous. Rocks and glass bottles were also thrown at the sound truck. The operators of the sound truck used a setting to turn the public address system into a Long Range Acoustic Device on two different occasions to defend themselves. It use of sound frequencies to create a noise that is difficult to listen to, and is meant to drive people out of the area.
Later Friday, Wheeler prohibited use of the sound defense system.
Davis also thanked citizens who have spotted "harmful items stashed downtown" and turned them into police.
KOIN News 6 is a news partner and contributed to this story.
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