Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Rejects Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s Request to Take Over as Police Commissioner

Hardesty had requested control of the Police Bureau two days earlier.

Protesters released red smoke in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Portland on July 18. (Alex Wittwer)

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler on Monday rejected City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty's request to take over as police commissioner.

"I will continue to serve as police commissioner through this time of transformation," Wheeler said in a statement. "And I will continue to work with elected leaders from the county and the state to ensure that we are examining the criminal justice system as a whole."

Wheeler did not provide a specific reason for his decision, which follows a July 18 request from Hardesty.

"Mayor Wheeler, if you can't control the police, give me the Portland Police Bureau," Hardesty wrote. "You are putting our community in danger. You are putting my staff in danger. We need you to be better."

Her open letter to Wheeler followed Department of Homeland Security agents deploying to Portland against the will of city officials. Since they arrived, federal agents have snatched Portlanders and driven them away in unmarked rental vans, deployed tear gas indiscriminately without any warning, shot a protester in the head with a munition resulting in facial reconstructive surgery, and beat two street medics with nightsticks.

Their actions, which have sometimes occurred simultaneously with dispersals conducted by Portland police, have raised questions whether the two law enforcement agencies are coordinating their response.

Wheeler's denial of Hardesty's request to become police commissioner was coupled with a letter Monday sent to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf from himself and five other mayors: Jenny Durkan of Seattle, Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, and Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C.

The mayors called on federal officials to "take immediate action to withdraw your forces" from their cities.

"We write to express our deep concern and objection to the deployment of federal forces in our cities, as those forces are conducting law enforcement activities without coordination or authorization of local law enforcement officials," the mayors wrote. "This abuse of power cannot continue."

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