PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw on Thursday announced that an independent investigation has cleared Lt. Jeff Niiya, who served as a liaison during large demonstrations, of all misconduct related to text messages between Niiya and Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson.
The investigation stemmed from a Willamette Week report back in February detailing texts between Lt. Jeff Niiya and Gibson, whose far right-wing group has been involved in several violent clashes in Portland with left-wing anti-fascists since President Donald Trump was elected.
The texts showed Niiya had a friendly rapport with Gibson, frequently discussing Gibson's plans to demonstrate.
Wheeler in February called the messages "disturbing" and said they crossed "several boundaries." He then ordered the investigation.
The Independent Police Review investigated whether Lt. Niiya was unprofessional during his communications with Gibson, whether he maintained objectivity while communicating with Gibson and whether he inappropriately disclosed information to Gibson that allowed individuals to avoid arrest.
After reviewing more than 11,000 text messages from Lt. Niiya’s phone and interviewing staff from the police bureau and the Mayor’s Office, investigators did not find sufficient evidence of misconduct. Portland's police chief agreed after her own review.
"After an exhaustive review of communications between Lieutenant Jeff Niiya and a variety of community event organizers, I determined the allegations of violations of policy to be unfounded," said Outlaw.
Lt. Niiya released the following statement:
“I wish to thank everyone who supported me through this investigation. I appreciate the thoroughness and expediency of the investigation by IPR and the subsequent findings by Chief Outlaw. With this finally behind me, I look forward to continuing to serve the Police Bureau and the people of Portland.”
The Portland Police Bureau released all documents related to the investigation.
At Thursday's news conference, both Wheeler and Outlaw said the text messages released earlier this year were the focus of a narrow public records request and lacked full context. Wheeler said it would have been more fair to Lt. Niiya if he had been more overt in giving Niiya the benefit of the doubt.
The IPR investigation also recommended more formal training for crowd control liaisons, which the bureau began during the summer, Outlaw said.