Mayor Ted Wheeler took another step to solidify the city's opposition to right-wing extremism Friday afternoon by accepting his colleague's suggestion to implement training for the Portland Police Bureau on identifying white supremacy.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty joined civil rights advocates in calling for such training after WW and the Portland Mercury broke stories revealing text messages between a Portland police officer and a right-wing organizer.
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly echoed Hardesty's suggestion Friday.
The texts WW first reported Feb. 14 showed that Lt. Jeff Niiya had offered Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson advice on how to avoid having his followers arrested on warrants and also sometimes shared information about where leftist protesters were demonstrating.
Wheeler called the texts "disturbing" on Thursday afternoon. He immediately asked Outlaw to open an internal investigation into the bureau's communications with right-wing groups. That investigation is ongoing, and PPB has not commented on whether any bureau or city policies were violated in the messages.
City-wide training on identifying and rejecting white supremacy and far-right extremism had already been approved in a resolution denouncing white supremacy that City Council passed last week. The Western States Center has been tasked with designing the training, which would be provided to every city employee.
"First and foremost: Chief [Danielle] Outlaw and I are going to implement training for the Portland Police Bureau around how to identify white supremacy based on the recommendation of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, Council on American-Islamic Relations Oregon and the Western States Center," Wheeler said in a Feb. 15 statement.
Wheeler also announced an independent investigation of the Police Bureau's communications with right-wing groups, a move he says the chief supports.
"Chief Outlaw agrees this is a necessary next step and is more than ready to work with me on this," Wheeler said in a statement. "I have heard from the people of Portland. I agree we must do more to ensure that we adhere to the values affirmed by the resolution recently passed by City Council to condemn white supremacist and alt-right hate groups."
The Police Bureau has also removed Niiya from the rapid response team, which polices protests, and instructed him to stop communicating with event organizers until the internal review concludes.