PORTLAND, Ore. — Mayor Ted Wheeler said he will continue to head the Portland Police Bureau, despite a city commissioner asking him to hand over the duties over the weekend.
After another night in which Portland police, along with federal officers, clashed with protesters, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty on Saturday told Wheeler, “if you can’t control the police, give me the Portland Police Bureau.” Hardesty, who has been calling for police reform for decades, for the first time last week publicly revealed she would be open to being the Portland police commissioner during an interview on KGW’s Straight Talk.
"Honestly, if he gave me the police bureau, I think we'd see a rash of retirements, and then we could start hiring the police force we want," she said.
Hardesty currently oversees three first responder bureaus: Portland Fire & Rescue, the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management and the Bureau of Emergency Communications.
"I never wanted the police bureau. But, I believe there's some logic in having all the first responder bureaus under one commissioner. And I would take it, because we are doing this transformation if the mayor offered it," she said during her Straight Talk interview with KGW's Laural Porter.
Traditionally, the mayor has taken on the role of police commissioner, and Wheeler has followed that tradition and re-stated his position of leadership on Monday.
"I will continue to serve as police commissioner through this time of transformation. And I will continue to work with elected leaders from the county and the state to ensure that we are examining the criminal justice system as a whole," Wheeler said.
However, he and the Portland Police Bureau have been criticized for their response to protests over the past eight weeks, which have often ended with officers using tear gas or other uses of force to disperse protesters.
The focus on the city’s police response gained national attention over the last week after President Donald Trump sent federal officers to Portland. The presence of federal officers has led to an escalation of conflict between law enforcement and protesters, which has included a protester being seriously injured after being shot in the head with a less-lethal projectile, federal officers in unmarked vans reportedly grabbing protesters off the streets and detaining them and a Navy veteran being beaten by federal agents.
Wheeler on Monday again reiterated that he wants federal officers to leave Portland, and joined mayors from other cities across the country, including Seattle and Atlanta, in denouncing Trump’s deployment of federal forces.
“The president is attacking progressive cities with a classic ‘divide and conquer’ tactic. We must not fall prey to this. Nationwide, we must stand together for peace and for reform against those who would oppose it,” Wheeler said.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum last week filed a lawsuit against several federal agencies, saying officers are violating Oregonians’ civil rights.
Trump on Monday praised the response of federal officers and said he may send more to other cities in the U.S.
“In Portland, they’ve done a fantastic job,” the president said.
Rosenblum responded on Twitter, saying federal law enforcement has “made things significantly worse, including the greatest injuries so far.”