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Mayor says he has supported police and continues to despite 'conflicting stories,' in wake of union criticism.

FILE PHOTO - Mayor Ted WheelerMayor Ted Wheeler on Friday emailed Portland police officers directly to express his support for them, responding to their union president's statement Thursday that Wheeler had "failed miserably" as police commissioner.

"Serving as a police officer is undoubtedly one of the most challenging, risky and demanding jobs in our city," Wheeler wrote, noting that he had supported the addition of more than 50 new police officer positions, and thanking the police for their service to the community. He called "conflicting stories" around his support of the police "unfortunate," adding "It is an honor to serve as your Police Commissioner."

Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner had posted a statement on the Portland Police Association website Thursday saying there is no place for "political bias" in day-to-day policing decisions. Although not mentioned specifically, the statement was posted days after Wheeler defended his previous decision to keep police away from the demonstration outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Southwest Portland.

The union representing ICE employees has accused Wheeler of preventing police from responding to their calls for assistance during confrontations with protesters. In a letter of response, Wheeler said police were not prohibited from responding to 911 calls, but added he "consistently stated that I did not want the Portland Police Bureau to be engaged or sucked into a conflict for the purpose of securing federal property that houses a federal agency with their own federal police force."

Wheeler has repeatedly said he supported the purpose of the protest but not the camp that formed adjacent to the facility.

During a previous meeting with the Portland Tribune editorial board, Wheeler said there were occasional conflicts between his roles as mayor and police commissioner. He said they were the result of Portand's unique form of government, where the members of the council also oversee city bureaus. Mayors have traditionally assigned the police to themselves.

Turner also sent out a statement recently calling the city of Portland a "cesspool," and later said a the city needs better services for the homeless. His statement responded to a quote of Wheeler in The Oregonian about the paper's finding that half of the arrests last year were of homeless people. Turner has suggested Wheeler does not support the city's police.

Here is the text of Wheeler's statement:

It is an honor to serve as your Police Commissioner.

Serving as a police officer is undoubtedly one of the most challenging, risky and demanding jobs in our city. Once again, you will be called upon to secure the safety of our residents during this weekend's planned demonstrations. I know that this is a particularly challenging situation, and I want you to know that I have complete trust in your ability to manage it. As always, you will rely on the strong leadership of your command staff, your training and your good judgement.

It is unfortunate that there are conflicting stories around my support for the Portland Police Bureau at such a critical time. I believe it is my duty to clarify a couple of points.

While you were doing your part to protect and serve the community, I was pleased to champion an increase the number of sworn police officer positions by 52, strengthen funding for the Service Coordination Team, increase support for the Behavioral Health Unit, fund new trainers and data analysts, and work with local business leaders to support increased revenues for critical services, including public safety enhancements. I will continue to support you as your Mayor.

I also appreciate my strong relationship with the Command Staff. Chief Outlaw has exceeded my expectations – I am glad she accepted my offer to lead our team. She has proven herself to be an effective leader for the Bureau and the community, and she and her leadership team have my full confidence.

The Bureau is fortunate to also benefit from top-flight non-sworn staff. You are the backbone of our operations, and your work is often difficult and overlooked. The Bureau could not succeed without you.

Thank you again for your service to the community. I want you to know that I appreciate it.

Respectfully, Ted Wheeler.

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