Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has a message for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler: Do your job as police commissioner — or step aside.
Though she once seemed to loathe the idea of being made the City Council member in charge of the Portland Police Bureau, Hardesty's thinking on the topic has rapidly evolved.
"You are putting our community in danger. You are putting my staff in danger. We need you to be better," she wrote on Saturday, July 18. "I demand action right now. Mayor Wheeler, if you can't control the police, give me the Portland Police Bureau."
Her call for command came after a Friday night protest that saw officers charging into late-night crowds of demonstrators and volleys of tear gas and pepper spray used by federal authorities. The nightly rallies had dwindled in numbers in recent weeks, but resurged after reports of protesters vanishing into unmarked cars driven by the feds thrust Portland back into the national spotlight.
Hardesty held a peaceful candlelight vigil earlier in the evening on Friday on the steps of the Multnomah County Justice Center, whose front edifice has been bricked up to prevent further incursions by protesters.
In an interview with the Tribune later that night, she said she was tentatively considering the idea of taking charge of PPB, citing the logistical efficiencies of having it under the same roof as another bureau she controls, Portland Fire & Rescue.
"On a personal level, I don't want it. But on a management level, it may make some sense," she said. "It is evolved thinking on my part."
That was then.
Things changed overnight as officers declared an unlawful assembly and made numerous arrests. Sergio Olmos, a local journalist currently freelancing for the New York Times, reported from the scene around 1:45 a.m. that PPB officers had emerged from their bunker to disperse crowds at the same moment federal officers appeared.
Portland police and federal officers disperse at the same time, PBB came from the East while federal police came from the south, in a defalade.— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) July 18, 2020
Portland Mayor(also the police commissioner) said PBB would not cordinate with federal police to clear streets pic.twitter.com/ryfPIwkCTx
Hardesty condemned such apparent coordination, referencing Donald Trump by his ordinal number as 45th president of the United States.
"We need you to stop denying the violence being perpetrated by our own police force," she said, "and make it clear and unambiguous: Portland police are directed from the top to never collaborate with 45's goon squad, to take off their riot gear, and to stop contributing to the violence."
Wheeler, whose office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has said in the past that he does not call police strategy on a play-by-play level, though he has selected several police chiefs. Crowds have often made chants against the mayor during the last 50 nights of protests, and graffiti referring to "Tear Gas Ted" has sprung up all over town.
Portland's unique commission form of government is up for review in 2022, with many civic leaders calling for it to be replaced by the ubiquitous city manager form of government.
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