On Meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Yesterday, the leadership of the Portland Police Association, along with dozens of other law enforcement leaders including Police Chiefs and Sheriffs from all over Oregon, met with United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The PPA was the only, exclusively rank and file police labor union in the state invited. The primary focus of Attorney General Sessions’ visit was to discuss immigration issues and the collaboration of state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies working together.

My main objective was to focus on the catastrophic staffing issues that the Portland Police Bureau is facing, as well as law enforcement departments nationwide. I wanted to inform the Attorney General of the issue we have in Portland; how our critically short staffing affects our ability to keep our neighborhoods safe, restricts our ability to proactively police our communities, limits the resources and services that we can provide, and the allows for officer safety hazards and dangers.

Surprisingly, no law enforcement leader in the room, including the three Assistant Chiefs from the Portland Police Bureau, addressed this issue with the Attorney General. No one else in the room was advocating for their rank and file workers. And no one in the room even mentioned their line officers, deputies, or troopers who are doing the work in urban environments, suburbs, and the rural areas across the state.

When I had the opportunity to address the Attorney General, I explained the frustration of the street cops not able to actively engage in proactive policing in regards to street level drug trafficking, homelessness, and the livability issues that impact our neighborhoods. I talked about our frustration over our inability to respond in a timely manner to calls of domestic violence, gang violence, and to those in mental health crisis. And I laid out the statistics that the Portland Police Bureau currently has 1.4 sworn employees per thousand residents when the FBI’s recommendation for a city the size of Portland is 2.6 per thousand residents.

I asked Attorney General Sessions if we could expect any federal funds from programs like COPS, specifically targeted to fund more police positions to departments in need, because our progressive political leadership in Portland requires the Police Bureau to cut its budget every year and has not increased our authorized staffing in more than a decade. The Attorney General informed me that his budget has also been cut and that it was unlikely that we would see any extension or continuation of the COPS program and that we would have to depend on our local elected officials for the funding to expand our authorized staffing levels.

Ironically, Mayor Wheeler had a letter he had written delivered to Attorney General Sessions and in one paragraph he stated,“Portland is a thriving city because we have a population with diverse backgrounds who contribute positively to the fabric of our community. Our welcoming attitude towards all residents of our community is a core component of our identity, and a key to our success.” 

What Mayor and Police Commissioner Wheeler failed to mention is that our population of diverse backgrounds thrives in large part because of the rank and file Officers, Sergeants, Detectives, and Criminalists of the PPB. The work you do every day to keep our communities safe makes Portland a premiere destination and a place to call home.

As I continue to advocate for you, our members, I will fight to address the issues we face that make your job more difficult and complex. Your safety is my number one priority. Thank you for the incredible work you do daily for all the citizens in our community and the City of Portland.

Daryl Turner, President
Portland Police Association

Image Credit: KOIN