Under new direction from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, at least three police officers have been placed on administrative duty after troubling behavior at the nightly protests for racial justice.
Protesters have long maintained that the mayor, who serves as the police commissioner, has done little to reprimand specific officers whose conduct at protests appears particularly egregious — allowing them to be credibly accused of misconduct one night and come back out to police protests the next.
In recent weeks, the mayor has said he too is concerned the accountability process for police takes too long. Investigations by the Independent Police Review, the city agency responsible for digging into allegations of police misconduct, can drag on for months before there’s a decision. In a press conference on Aug 26, Wheeler said he wanted to meet with the police bureau to find a way to hold officers at protests "accountable in real time.”
Kristen Dennis, Wheeler’s chief of staff, said a new direction was passed on to the Chief’s office last week: certain police should be placed on administrative duty and taken off the street while investigations into potential misconduct wind their way through the system.
The officer who was captured by OPB tackling a protester and punching them repeatedly as they lay on the ground has been placed on administrative duty under the new direction, according to Dennis. It’s not clear what prompted the decision for the other two officers.
There are far more than three police officers whose conduct at protests is under investigation by the city. The Independent Police Review has been flooded with complaints over the last 100 days. The mayor’s direction did not include a clear description as to what level of behavior would trigger administrative duty.
“There’s not a hard or fast rule,” said Dennis. “Essentially [it’s] when there’s a complaint we’re investigating where it’s particularly credible or there’s a lot of evidence.”
“It’s a conversation we’re continuing to have with the chief’s office.”
The Portland Police did not immediately respond to questions about how the mayor’s direction would be put into practice. Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell is holding a press conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday to provide “updates on key initiatives.”
This story may be updated.