Here’s why it’s ridiculous that Mayor Ted Wheeler didn’t learn until his police chief said it at a press conference that his Portland Police Bureau would be coordinating with Oregon State Police during the purported transition away from the paramilitary shock troops of Mine Furor’s
Interior Ministry Department of Homeland Security.
If we’re going to have a militarized police force — and it’s going to take time to demilitarize in addition to defunding them — than the clear chain-of-command needs to stop and start with the elected civilian political official in charge of the Police Bureau. In this case, that means Wheeler.
His “apology” for the use of tear gas is an empty one given that his approach to the police is to defer to their decisions (per today’s news conference) or to “ask” them to do things rather than order them to do things (per his at-the-protest “listening session”).
The problem is that Wheeler is not required by law to have any political skin in the “game” of being the police commissioner.
Under the city’s 0635.10 Crowd Management/Crowd Control directive (currently under review, according to that page), it’s the responsibility of the Crowd Management Incident Commander to “[a]uthorize the deployment of riot control agents and/or special impact munitions, when objectively reasonable, to address civil disturbance and crowd dispersal”.
This should change.
Wheeler, as police commissioner, should be required either by city code or by policy directive to be present at the Justice Center or other appropriate command center whenever there’s a protest. I’ve literally no idea if he ever is; for all I know during these nightly protests he is asleep and finding out the next day what his police happened to do.
Further, it should be the express purview of the police commissioner — the elected political official responsible for the Police Bureau — to authorize the use of “riot control agents and/or special impact munitions”, barring the outright prohibition of such weapons.
(Wheeler’s statement of early June doesn’t count, as it continues to allow the Bureau’s incident commander the wide leeway to determine what is “violence that threatens life safety”.)
Not the chief, or the incident commander, or any other agent employed by our militarized police force. Only and solely the police commissioner.
For the Mayor’s apology to mean anything for the future of the use of riot control weapons, he needs to take actual, not merely rhetorical, responsibility for their use.
Given his habitual deference to the Police Bureau, however, I think it’s fairly clear that the only reason Wheeler maintains an in-name-only control of the Bureau is to protect them from any day-to-day oversight.