Union files complaint over how the city is handling texts between police, Patriot Prayer

Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson - KATU image from October 8, 2017.

PORTLAND, Ore. – The union representing Portland Police commanders claims Mayor Ted Wheeler violated city policies with his statements about text messages between a police lieutenant and Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson.

The union added that they feel the mayor just doesn't understand policing.

Wheeler disputes both of those claims and has no plans to call off an independent investigation into the text messages.

RELATED: Portland police to hold listening session on text messages sent to Patriot Prayer leader

In a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Wheeler says he's still especially troubled by a text from December 2017 text leading up to a protest planned by the Patriot Prayer group in Portland.

In the text, Police Lieutenant Jeff Niiya wrote organizer Joey Gibson about a group member with an arrest warrant, saying, "just make sure he doesn't do anything which may draw our attention... I don't see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason."

Mayor Wheeler worries that warning someone about an arrest warrant may have violated police policy, even if the intention is to avoid sparking more violence.

“My desire to limit these street brawls does not give anybody, nor should it give anybody, encouragement to violate policies or do things that do not comport with the values of our police bureau,” said Mayor Wheeler.

Wheeler added that an investigation doesn't mean he mistrusts police commanders.

"People shouldn't take it that way. They should take it as my sincere attempt to live up to the promise I made when I ran for this office that our Police Bureau would be transparent, it would be accountable to the public that it serves," Wheeler said.

In their complaint filed Tuesday (posted in-full below) the union representing Portland police commanders claimed the mayor is violating city human resources policy by talking publicly about a city personnel matter.

The union says police choose when to act on arrest warrants depending on how serious a warrant might be, and didn't want to have to make an arrest that might touch off violence during a protest.

“It's police work 101 and the mayor's reaction to that seemed to indicate that he had no idea of that fact and it just makes me wonder why he hasn't familiarized himself with what we do when he is the head of the - when he is the nominal head of the agency,” said Lt. Craig Morgan of the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association, "It really felt like the mayor had initially kind of made a rush to judgement about Lieutenant Niiya's behavior and the mayor continued to make additional statements that quite frankly I thought were just inappropriate and not a fair way to treat an employee of the city of Portland."

Mayor wheeler says he intends every arrest warrant to be enforced equally and hopes an independent investigation will either confirm or eliminate any question about whether anyone is being treated unfairly in that process.

PPCOA Files Complaint Against Mayor Wheeler, Commissioner Hardesty and Commissioner Eudaly

Complaint alleges public statements were derogatory and hostile and damaged his professional work environment

PORTLAND, Ore. – Today the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association (PPCOA) filed a complaint with Chief Human Resources Officer Serilda Summers-McGee against Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. PPCOA believes their various public statements regarding Lieutenant Jeff Niiya are violations of Bureau of Human Resources Administrative Rule 2.02. This rule prohibits workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation. In addition, the PPCOA has filed a grievance against the City for a violation of the labor agreement based on the various public statements.

Our job is to keep the people of Portland safe. That means building bridges and developing cordial relationships with diverse groups and individuals. We have regular open communication with the mayor’s office about our work and the tactics we employ. This situation is no different. Mayor Ted Wheeler’s statement about our communications with Patriot Prayer organizers is either disingenuous or shows willful ignorance of the situation. Either way it shows that during his two years as Portland Police Commissioner he has failed to develop an understanding of even basic police work.

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