This article was originally published on our sister publication The Portland Mercury's blog Blogtown, where you can find ongoing coverage of Portland's protests related to the killing of George Floyd. —Eds. Note
Daryl Turner got the call to meet with the head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Wednesday. A day later, Turner, the president of Portland's rank-and-file police union the Portland Police Association (PPA), was sitting at a conference table with federal law enforcement officials in downtown Portland in a meeting led by DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf. Turner, who is also an active PPB officer, was the only representative from the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) in the room.
"The basic idea was to go and listen to see if there were any ideas in there that were helpful for us," Turner told the Mercury Friday.
Wolf visited Portland Thursday for a whirlwind meeting with federal officers who'd been deployed to guard the Mark Hatfield Federal Courthouse during nightly protests. Under Donald Trump's leadership, Wolf has lambasted Portland officials for their response to the demonstrations, and characterized all protesters as "violent anarchists." Federal officers, however, have inflicted some of the worst injuries on protesters engaging in non-violent demonstration. Because of this, both PPB Chief Chuck Lovell and Mayor Ted Wheeler refused to meet with Wolf—although it appears neither of them received an invitation.
Like Wolf, Turner has condemned Portland's leadership for failing to crack down on protesters in the past weeks. In a statement released July 6, Turner accused local officials of defending the "criminal actions" of protesters while "demonizing and vilifying the officers on the front lines protecting our communities, our safety, our livelihood, and our rights." Days later, he announced PPA's leadership board had taken a vote of "no confidence" in Portland City Council. Turner has responded to the public's calls to improve police accountability by announcing a campaign to "reform" PPB by increasing its budget.
Turner said he had attended the Thursday meeting with hopes of improving the relationship between federal police and PPB.
"My main goal was to be able to see if the feds could coordinate better with PPB and Chief Lovell," said Turner. "If you're going to work in the same space, it's hard to do so without coordination. I understand the back and forth between elected officials. But the most important thing, to me, is that Portlanders are safe. If that can happen, then we'll be okay."
Turner said there was little discussion about collaborating with PPB during the meeting. He said he saw it more as a chance to raise concerns than have a dialog.
PPB leadership, however, seem uninterested in working with the federal officers. In a Friday press conference, Lovell was clear to differentiate between the two agencies.
“At times federal officers may take action in proximity to Portland officers... We may take action near them," said Lovell. "The federal officers have their objectives and the Portland Police Bureau has our objectives. We don't direct federal officers' actions, and they do not direct ours."
During this same press call, Lovell said didn't believe any members of PPB had met with Wolf on Thursday.
"I don't believe anyone from the police bureau did, but I can't say that for 100 percent," said Lovell during a virtual press conference Friday afternoon.
Pressed to explain his uncertainty, Lovell responded: "Well, we have people that fill different roles with different associations, and things of that nature, that may have received an invite."
An hour after the meeting ended, PPB sent an email to media clarifying that Lovell had "since learned" that Turner met with Wolf.
Yet, it appears Turner wasn't the only officer to meet with the DHS' top official. A photo Wolf shared on social media Friday morning shows several officers dressed in combat gear chatting with Wolf inside the federal courthouse. Two of the officers have green patches on their sleeve reading "Bureau of Police Portland." Neither of them are Turner.
It's unclear if Lovell has "since learned" about this officers' meeting, too.