Portland’s police chief is taking responsibility for his department’s targeting of elected officials deemed opponents of the police bureau.
Chief Chuck Lovell said, “I feel like where I sit as the police chief you are ultimately responsible for things happening in your organization.”
According to The Oregonian, several accounts of malicious targeting of elected officials have come from the Portland Police Department, including the sharing of prosecutor Mike Schmidt’s home address and personal information.
Schmidt, who is perceived to be too soft on crime and ran on a platform of police reform and racial justice, was elected by county voters in May 2020.
Long-time police critic City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was the target of another attack. A report was leaked that misidentified Hardesty as hit-and-run driver. The leak prompted Portland police union president Brian Hunzeker to resign.
Lovell did not dismiss reporters’ intimation that the incidents, currently under investigation by Los Angeles-based firm the OIR Group, could be reflective of a broader culture of systemic racism within the department.
“I think it’s a good question,” he said. “Anything that speaks to the overall culture of your agency you have to be willing to take a critical look at. You can’t bury your head in the sand and say, ‘No, there’s no problem here.’”
The Oregonian also reported that Mayor Ted Wheeler is ordering a probe on racial and political bias within the city’s police department prompted by the leak against Hardesty – the first Black woman on the Portland City Council.
Lovell said he understands the growing concern among Portland residents about the conduct of the city’s police officers and the lack of community trust.
“I do want to let people know that community trust is very important to me,” he said. “Whenever we have allegations or questions around issues where someone may have done something wrong, I realize it has an impact, a negative impact on community trust.”