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Wheeler Says He Won't Use YouTube Videos To Set Police Policy


Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he’s “satisfied with the results” from Sunday’s dueling protests downtown.

Seven people were arrested as a handful of right-wing demonstrators and hundreds of counterprotesters gathered at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park before spilling into the streets. Two police officers suffered minor injuries.

Dueling protests like Sunday’s faceoff between supporters of President Trump — and in some cases white supremacy groups — and groups on the left have created significant challenges for cities across the country.

Wheeler said it was clear to protest leaders from the start that there would be designated areas for each group — protesters would be separated, free speech would be protected and violence would not be tolerated.

“I would say I’m satisfied that the results could’ve been much, much worse,” Wheeler said Thursday on OPB’s “Think Out Loud.” He stressed, again, that he rejects white supremacy and violence.

Wheeler was asked about a video that’s gone viral showing an officer deploying a crowd control grenade called a “rubber ball distraction device.” It’s similar to a flash-bang grenade.

Police say they were hit with three projectiles, including a water bottle and a wooden spoon, before the officer threw the distraction grenade toward a filmmaker and a protester. Others have criticized the officer’s actions as heavy-handed and dangerous.

Wheeler said he’s seen multiple videos that depict the incident from multiple angles.

“With respect to specific tactics, the police can always strive to do better, and every situation is a learning opportunity,” Wheeler said. “As we review these types of situations, that can lead to changes in training and changes in the way that we work with the community.”

Portland Police arrest a young woman at a protest on Sept. 10, 2017.

Portland Police arrest a young woman at a protest on Sept. 10, 2017.

Ericka Cruz Guevarra/OPB

The Portland Police Bureau and the city’s Independent Police Review are both looking into the incident, something Wheeler underscored Thursday.

“I’m OK with us being critical of decisions that are made on the fly,” he said. “If there are changes that need to be in either training or operationally we’ll do it.”

Wheeler said he supports the rights of people to shoot video of the police while they do their work. He called it “the kind of accountability and transparency” critical to rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they police.

But during the same interview, Wheeler wouldn’t say whether the officer used force correctly. The mayor also serves as police commissioner. 

“I am not going to get suckered into making a definitive statement about a YouTube video,” he said. “I saw videos of varying length, from varying angles, and they told different stories depending upon the angle and depending upon what people chose to show on their YouTube channel.”

Wheeler said the two reviews should be completed before anyone comes to conclusions.

“I’m not willing to take anybody’s benefit for the doubt until the Independent Police Review Commission and the internal investigation have an opportunity to interview people who were actually there and get their perspectives,” he said.

Use the audio player at the top of this page to hear the full exchange between OPB’s Geoff Norcross and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler about the downtown rallies.

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