PORTLAND, OREGON – Portland Police Officer John Hurlman was seated in his patrol car Thursday morning, listening to a local radio station’s coverage of a news conference at police headquarters. Federal justice department officials were about to unveil their findings after more than a yearlong review of Portland police use of force.
Hurlman sent a text message out to all officers on the patrol car’s mobile computer, alerting them to tune in.
Shortly after the U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall started to speak, another officer texted the news back to all: the U.S. Department of Justice had found that Portland police engage in a pattern and practice of excessive force against people suffering from mental illness.
Annoyed by the outcome, Hurlman said he typed back something like, “This is the same DOJ or people who created Waco and Ruby Ridge.”
The North Precinct officer was referring to two of the biggest federal law enforcement fiascoes in recent memory: the disastrous 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas. The other, the tragic 1992 encounter between the FBI and a band of white separatists at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
Hurlman said he thought he had just responded to one officer but soon learned his message had popped up on all patrol officers’ mobile computers.
“It was kind of a knee-jerk reaction,” said the 21-year Portland police veteran. “In the current political climate, it wasn’t appropriate. On second-thought, I probably shouldn’t have done it.”
Yet Hurlman doesn’t hide his anger with the Justice Department’s ruling regarding Portland police.
Continuing coverage of the U.S. Department of Justice inquiry into the Portland Police Bureau.
“I was really annoyed at that moment, and, in fact, I think it’s nonsense,” he said Friday of the federal review. “Quite frankly, we’re being judged by people who don’t have much law enforcement experience.”
Hurlman said he was one of the original Portland officers to volunteer for crisis intervention training, before it became mandatory for all officers.
“We all know the lengths we go to to try to defuse these situations peacefully,” he said. “Nobody wants to go out and harm someone who is mentally ill.”
North Precinct Cmdr. Mike Leloff soon learned of the patrolwide message and called Hurlman into his office for a stern talk. Hurlman said Leloff appropriately, “chewed him out.”
As a result, Hurlman later Thursday texted an apology to all on his patrol car’s mobile computer.
He said it read something like this: “To those who received my earlier message, my remarks were unprofessional and insensitive. I apologize to anyone who received it.”
Portland Lt. Robert King said Friday, “The issue was addressed immediately by the Command Staff and the matter has been dealt with appropriately.”
Hurlman was back on patrol Friday, responding to emergency calls at North Precinct. He said he was advised to be careful about what he says and remain respectful.
A day after the federal report was made public, Hurlman added Friday, “People here are frustrated, to put it mildly.”