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Union leader criticizes reference to city history, mayor defends it as accurate

Mayor Ted Wheeler and the leadership of the Portland Police Association are fighting over a reference to the city's history of racial discrimination in the job posting for the next police chief.

The request for applicants released last week included a statement that the city has a "history of legally sanctioned systemic racism with legally enforced enforced exclusionary practices."

On Monday, PPA President Daryl Turner posted a letter on the union's Facebook page criticizing the statement.

"Understandably, the verbiage and the tenor of the job posting left many in the rank and file angry and confused, as the clear implication from the posting is that the Police Bureau and its members have supported a racist culture in the City," wrote Turner, who is African-American.

The statement also complains the posting was released on a day meant to honor law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, the 36th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service, and does not mention progress being made to better respond to the mentally ill and reduce gang violence, despite staffing shortages.

"The job announcement does not accurately reflect our Police Bureau and its members. Certainly, it does nothing to aid in recruiting and retaining a police chief, let along rank and file officers," wrote Turner.

In response, Wheeler released the following statement defending the posting and supporting the police:

"Our city and state have a shared history of racial injustice, from our state's original constitution — which contained an exclusion law banning black people from living here — to the hardships faced by those in Vanport before and after the flood, to the disparate outcomes for people of color in our legal system. I have spoken about this shared history at length. I have never called into question the values and beliefs of our rank and file police officers. I have tremendous respect for the hard work they do every day in the community. At a time that calls for a shared vision and unity of purpose regarding the future of the Portland Police Bureau, today's letter from the Portland Police Association is needlessly inflammatory and divisive. We are conducting a national search, fulfilling a commitment I made to the community last year. Anyone applying for the job should be fully aware of our state's history, and prepared to join me in ensuring that this history is just that... in the past."

Wheeler called improving the relationship between the bureau and the community a top priority when he ran for mayor last year. He also promised to conduct a national search for the next chief. The PPA has released a survey showing that the vast majority of its member prefer keeping existing Chief Mike Marshman, who was appointed by former Mayor Charlie Hales. Wheeler has encouraged Marshman to apply for the job.

You can read Turner's statement at m.facebook.com/PortlandPoliceAssociation/posts/1570738872949824.

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