Hundreds of Portland cops and their supporters rallied downtown this morning to back Officer Christopher Humphreys
, who was put on administrative leave last week pending an investigation into why he bean-bagged
a 12-year-old girl.
The police union says there were about 650 people there. The Police Bureau does not provide official crowd estimates "because people always get mad at us," says spokeswoman Mary Wheat.
Police rallied in Lownsdale Square
with union-made signs and shirts saying "Safety! Not Politics," "I Support the Police," "I am Chris Humphreys" and "No Leadership Confidence
," a nod to the union's ongoing no-confidence vote
against Chief Rosie Sizer and Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman. (Mayor Sam Adams assigned the police bureau to Saltzman last year.)
But cops approached by WW
mostly stayed mum on the no-confidence vote, with ballots due Friday and results to be announced next Monday. Few officers would say how they voted or why, insisting that today's event was about supporting Humphreys.
"This is about Chris," said North Precinct Officer Kevin Macho. "We feel like the issue itself is important, and the rest of it, the politics, will play itself out."
"They can't say he violated the law or was outside policy," said Gang Unit Detective Brad Clifton. "They just suspended him because they didn't like it."
After marching around the Justice Center, where Sizer's office sits on the 15th floor, the cops gathered in front of City Hall, where union president Sgt. Scott Westerman gave a 15-minute speech.
After rattling off a list of positive acts by police, such as helping the needy and keeping the streets safe, Westerman called on Portlanders to support officers in the line of duty.
"Our question today is, who's willing to stand with us?" Westerman said. "When you stand with us, you stand with the officer who goes to the city's darkest streets, alone at night, to keep the public safe and allow the city to sleep."
Prompted by Westerman, the crowd punctuated his statements in unison with the refrain "Will you stand with us?"
"If you do not, you have put political expedience ahead of effective law enforcement," Westerman said, referring to Saltzman's office upstairs. "To Mayor Sam Adams, we don't ask, because it's your job. You stand with us."
A handful of counter-protesters stood in back of the rally heckling the police. One woman repeatedly referred to the Nov. 14 incident where Humphreys shot a girl who was resisting arrest with a less-lethal bean-bag gun on an East Portland MAX platform.
"Where are the mothers?" she cried.
A man who declined to identify himself held a sign saying "KKK" and "Portland Police shoot blacks."
"Back then they had dogs and fire hoses," he said. "Now they have bean bags. We're just going back in time."
The gathered police declined to react except to glance occasionally at the protesters.
"We're here to support Chris Humphreys," said Drugs and Vice Sgt. Jim Morris. "It could have been any of us."