The National ICE Council, the union that represents U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, called on state and federal prosecutors to investigate Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler for his approach to policing the 39-day Occupy ICE protest this summer.
In two letters first reported by the Portland Tribune, the union asks the Oregon and U.S. Departments of Justice to investigate Wheeler for official misconduct and alleged civil rights violations related to his directions advising Portland police to only respond to the protest blockade if people's lives were at risk.
"The Mayor's strategic direction is for PPB to not get involved unless lives are in danger," mayoral staffer Berk Nelson texted Assistant Chief Robert
Day on June 21. Several additional conversations between Portland officials indicate Wheeler did not change this instruction until Portland police helped clear the last remnants of the camp on July 25.
"Make no mistake," Wheeler said in a statement responding to the ICE union's call for a criminal investigation. "They are coming after me because I am a vocal opponent of the administration's policy of separating kids from their parents. Now we know many of these kids will be permanently orphaned as a result. That is wrong. I'm outraged by it. Previous claims made by Sean Riddell have fallen apart upon further inspection and these claims, if investigated, will too."
The union claims Wheeler did not enforce several state laws, including ordinances banning riots, disorderly conduct, harassment and a city regulation barring camping on public property.
"As the Mayor and Police Commissioner for the City of Portland, Mr. Wheeler has an inherent obligation to enforce the laws of the State of Oregon and the City of Portland," the letter sent to the Oregon DOJ says. "Mr. Wheeler also has an inherent obligation to not use the Portland Police Bureau to advance his own political agenda, or use his police powers to harm those he believes possess alternative political beliefs.
The union first sent Wheeler a letter in July demanding he retract a policy of keeping Portland police from intervening in protests against ICE.
Wheeler has emphatically denied that his tactical direction constituted a city-wide policy of not responding to ICE officials' calls for service. In response to the first letter sent to his office by Sean Riddell, an attorney for the ICE union, Wheeler rejected the allegation that he had told police not to respond to serious calls.
"I am compelled to respond to your inaccurate and inflammatory letter dated July 30, in which you claim that we have a 'policy of not responding to calls for police services from ICE employees,'" the mayor wrote. "No such policy exists."
A spokeswoman for the Oregon DOJ says the agency received the letter and is reviewing it.