UPDATE (5:19 p.m. PT) — Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, the City Council's most vocal advocate for police reform, has called on Mayor Ted Wheeler to give her control of the Portland Police Bureau, citing Wheeler's denial of the violence being perpetrated by local law enforcement during the city's nightly protests against police brutality.
A little over a week ago, Hardesty told OPB she didn't have an interest in controlling the police directly and would decline if the mayor offered her the bureau. The two city leaders had appeared to forge a strong bond in recent months and the commissioner, while regularly critiquing the tactics of local police, had not gone after the mayor, who oversees the police bureau.
But in the last week, the dynamics have changed: Federal officers have become prominent players in the nightly protests, severely injuring at least one protester and using alarming tactics including detaining protesters in unmarked vehicles.
And questions have been raised about how closely federal law enforcement and local police are working together. In a statement Saturday afternoon, Hardesty said she believed the two forces were collaborating.
“Mayor Wheeler, I’m sick of writing these statements day after day. We know that Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner met with DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. We know Portland Police are collaborating with this federal occupying force,” she wrote. “You are putting our community in danger. You are putting my staff in danger. We need you to be better.”
In a press conference Friday, Police Chief Chuck Lovell told reporters that the federal agents and local police communicate with federal officers “for the purpose of situation awareness and deconfliction.”
“We're operating in a very, very close proximity to one another sometimes within that area of a city block. So it's important for us to know if they're going to take some type of action and it's important for them to know if we're going to take some type of action,” he said.
The police bureau had previously said federal agents were working from the Portland police incident command center. On Saturday, the bureau announced in a release that would no longer be the case for the Federal Protective Service, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. Portland police did not explain why.
But some within the police bureau have pushed for closer communication between local and federal law enforcement. On Friday, Daryl Turner, the head of the Portland Police Association, told OPB he had met with Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of DHS, when he was in town because he wanted to see the two agencies working more closely together.
In her statement, Hardesty cited the protests that had occurred Friday, during which a reinvigorated crowd of thousands gathered downtown. Hardesty has spoken at the protests calling for an end to police violence against protesters. After she left, she said the federal agents instigated “another unprovoked brutal attack,” soon to be joined by Portland police officers.
“We need you to stop denying the violence being perpetrated by our own police force and make it clear and unambiguous: Portland police are directed from the top to never collaborate with 45’s goon squad, to take off their riot gear, and to stop contributing to the violence that was occurring before the feds arrived and still continues night after night,” she wrote. “I demand action right now. Mayor Wheeler, if you can’t control the police, give me the Portland Police Bureau.”
Wheeler’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.
This story may be updated.