A Portland Police Bureau lieutenant who was investigated for exchanging hundreds of sometimes chummy texts with the leader of a right-wing group was cleared of wrongdoing today.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw released the results of an investigation into communications that Lt. Jeff Niiya had with the groups that have regularly battled on Portland streets. WW first revealed those texts in February.
"The [Independent Police Review] concluded no evidence of any policy violations," Outlaw said at a press conference this afternoon. The chief said multiple levels of PPB staff and she herself reviewed the investigative findings and concurred that Niiya did nothing wrong.
In what appeared to be a show of support for Niiya, more than 20 police officers stood behind the mayor and the chief as they made their remarks.
In her comments, Outlaw implied the media was to blame for Niiya's being investigated, faulting what she termed "narrowly tailored" public records requests for his text messages.
As WW and the Portland Mercury reported earlier this year, Niiya, who has served as the commander of PPB's rapid response team, regularly exchanged text messages with Joey Gibson, the leader of a right-wing group based in Vancouver, Wash.
In the wake of that story, WW repeatedly requested more of Niiya's text messages to see who else he'd communicated with, however PPB declined to provide those text messages or other context.
Now that the bureau's investigation is complete, PPB reviewed 11,000 text messages has released those it considers relevant on its website.
Over the past three years, Patriot Prayer and other right-wing groups have regularly clashed with antifascists on Portland streets, in often violent confrontations.
Hundreds of text messages between Niiya and Gibson led to questions about whether PPB officers were sympathetic to Gibson and his allies on the right or whether Niiya was simply keeping lines of communication open and was also in regular contact with people in the antifascist movement.
In the wake of WW's reporting on those text messages, Wheeler ordered an investigation.
Today, the mayor said he wished he'd had more context when he called for that investigation. "I knew when I called for the investigation we did not have the full picture," he said.
Wheeler added that as a result of the investigation, Outlaw has made changes in the way officers interact with protesters.
"Many of the changes were put into action in the field and resulted in successes during Aug. 17 protests," Wheeler said, adding that despite unhappiness from some rank-and-file members about his calling for Niiya's investigation, "I believe my relationship with the PPB is stronger than it's ever been."