As president of the Portland Police Superior Officers Association, I am writing in response to Portland City Council Resolve 1-20/21. (The proposal, to create a committee to address systemic racism citywide, was narrowed to focus on police policies and approved July 13 by the City Council.)

I am appalled by the politically motivated and condemning tone of specific elements in the resolution directed toward our officers. The reference to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis is in no way representative of the police officers of Portland, the training standards we adhere to or the Police Department entirely.

The protest referenced in the resolution (which took place Monday, June 1 and continued overnight) was inaccurately characterized in the resolution. Police officers on scene conducted themselves with great restraint, even in the face of derogatory treatment and extreme demonstrations of hate and intolerance directed specifically toward police officers and the department as a whole. As the evening progressed, the protesters became more agitated and began throwing rocks, concrete, frozen water bottles and uncapped bottles of urine at officers.

The inference the resolution provides, that police “led to people throwing water bottles at police officers and 23 protesters were arrested for failing to disperse,” omits important factors that led police officers to respond to disorderly behavior and criminal attacks. Such omissions are inappropriate; sow division between police and the community, and disparage and demoralize Portland police officers. The City Council needs to tell the whole truth.

The city is targeting police officers without cause, and recommending changes to our working conditions and collective bargaining agreement. We suggest that the city look to the future rather than the past and use funding productively. One suggestion is to hire someone who can work within our community to help recruit residents as Portland police officers; we strongly believe the department should reflect the community, and this would be a collaborative effort toward that goal.

We believe our complaint process is one of the more progressive systems in the country, certainly in Maine, and believe in this process. Over six weeks have passed since June 1 and there have been no formal complaints, which can be filed online and anonymously, which speaks volumes to our officers’ professionalism and performance. The insinuation from recent City Council meetings refuses to acknowledge this, by making statements indicating that officers engaged in misconduct but that individuals are scared to make complaints. This is both insulting to officers and defamatory of their performance.

Our police officers are frustrated and demoralized by the lack of support extended by elected officials, specifically in the past six weeks, but also over the years when demands for police services have increased but resources have not. We’ve adapted and innovated from within but have significantly decreased our number of police officers over the past 20 years. Our training budget continually gets cut; last year we only had $78,000 to train the entire department, including civilian employees.

Overall, our officers see this as a politically convenient condemnation of Portland police officers and our department, regardless of the casual and infrequent mentioning that “we have a good Police Department.” We would like to remind the city of Portland that they have exceptional police officers who conduct a wide range of services and commit enormous personal sacrifices for this city. Portland police officers are in no way responsible for events that occurred in Minneapolis, and we should not be demonized or held at fault for those actions.

We have always been held to a higher standard by our community, our Police Department and ourselves. We believe we should be working together toward the future and improving the lives of residents of and visitors to the city. Instead, the City Council is engaged in political activism, absent proper context and facts and venturing to solicit complaints against our officers. The political attacks on Portland police officers by elected officials are harmful to the community relationships we have spent years developing and expose our officers and the city to frivolous lawsuits.

The officers of the Portland Police Department have righteously upheld their oath to perform their duties for the city of Portland and the state of Maine, and have done so with distinction, professionalism and great restraint. It is our request that the city and elected officials uphold their end of the bargain.


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