Portland officials are expressing outrage and dismay over a recent report that detailed how members of the Portland Police Bureau have regularly sent friendly text messages to members of Patriot Prayer, a far-right extremist group in the area.
The organization is a particularly violent one, per documentation from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC noted that Patriot Prayer members regularly engage antifascist counter-protesters in physical acts of aggression, including one incident where a member drove his pickup truck in reverse into a crowd of people.
No one was hurt in that incident, fortunately, but the truck driver, who was detained by police at the time, was released shortly thereafter.
The newly-released texts to the far-right group shed light into the relationships some members of Portland’s police department may have with the organization, according to reporting from NBC News. Lt. Jeff Niya, exchanged text messages with Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, telling him he didn’t see a need to arrest a separate member of the group, even if that member had outstanding warrants that warranted his being detained.
“If he still has the warrant in the system (I don’t run you guys so I don’t personally know) the officers could arrest him. I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason,” Niya wrote.
The individual the two were discussing, Tusitala Toese, is one of those who regularly engages counterprotesters in physical fights.
Niya even gave Gibson advice on how Toese could avoid getting arrested. “Just make sure he doesn’t do anything which may draw our attention,” Niya explained.
The Portland Police Bureau tried to justify Niya’s note as regular police procedure.
“In crowd management situations, it may not be safe or prudent to arrest a person right at that time, so the arrest may be delayed or followed up on later,” Lt. Tina Jones said. “It is not uncommon for officers to provide guidance for someone to turn themselves in on a warrant if the subject is not present.”
Elected officials from Portland’s city government disagreed.
“This story, like many that have come before it, simply confirms what many in the community have already known — there are members of the Portland police force who work in collusion with right-wing extremists,” Councilwoman Jo Ann Hardesty said.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said he was disturbed by the revelation of the texts as well, and called for an internal investigation of the police department, which the Portland Police Bureau has begun, according to Fox 12 Oregon. “[I]n my opinion, these text messages appear to cross several boundaries,” Wheeler said.
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Chris Walker is a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. A millennial with more than a decade of journalism experience, Chris aims to provide readers with the latest and most accurate news of national importance. Chris likes to spend his free time doing activities in his community with his family.