Mayor Ted Wheeler Can Fire Federally Deputized Cops Any Time

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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler made headlines this week by asking the feds to end the federal deputization of Portland Police officers. That request was rejected by United States Attorney Billy J. Williams and United States Marshal Russell Burger. Like most of Wheeler's recent publicity stunts, this one shows that he is quick to criticize in a manner intended to make the people of Portland think he has their back, but without doing all he can to keep them safe. Mayor Wheeler is also the Portland Police Commissioner and as such he is the highest ranking member of the Portland Police Bureau. Wheeler has the power as Portland Police Commissioner to force Portland Police officers refuse to work with the feds.

If Mayor Wheeler really wanted to protect the people of Portland he would prohibit Portland Police officers from accepting federal deputizations or working with the feds if they have been deputized already. He would simply need to enact a policy saying that no Portland Police officer may accept a deputization from the federal government while employed by the Portland Police Bureau and any officer that has been deputized already must voluntarily return that deputization to the federal government. Any officer caught working while deputized by the federal government after a reasonable time period would then be subject to immediate suspension or termination.

The Portland Police Association would likely do all they could to fight any such order from Wheeler. This could lead to a long legal battle in the courts that would go far beyond the end of the year, which is when the deputizations expire. That battle would certainly include an attempt by the PPA to obtain an injunction against Wheeler's policy citing either pre-existing contracts or some claim that it would not be a fair employment practice. If the courts were to grant an injunction then Wheeler would not be able to enforce the policy for a long time. Wheeler would certainly need to have his affairs in order and be ready to fight the PPA on the issue.

Should a short term ban on working with the feds be taken out of Wheeler's playbook there are other options. As Police Commissioner he has the right to decide what Portland Police property can be used for. He could simply issue an order prohibiting Portland Police officers from using Portland Police property to assist the federal government or ban deputized officers from using Portland Police property. Police properties such as patrol cars, radios, body armor, uniforms, riot gear, tear gas, guns, and "less than lethal" munitions belong to the City of Portland. The city has the right to decide what their employees can or cannot do with their property. Wheeler could simply say that no officer can use Portland Police property while deputized by the federal government. That would require the feds to provide them with equipment, which they would probably do, but it would also force the deputized officers to choose between their day jobs and helping the feds just like the employment restrictions would. That is because they would no longer have access to the equipment they need to do their jobs as Portland Police while helping the feds. A Portland Police officer on the clock with whatever gear the feds provide would no be able to do their jobs as Portland Police officers because city information systems and communications systems are also city property. A Portland Police officer cannot do their jobs without access to police databases and radio channels. The equipment ban would prevent any Portland Police officer from working for the feds while on the clock with the city at the same time.

The PPA would of course sue over that as well and seek some preliminary injunction calling the order a violation of the union contract, an unfair labor practice that creates dangerous working conditions, and an attempt to obstruct the administration of justice in the federal system, but the city can fight the PPA in court. Even if the PPA gets an injunction against every edict issued by Wheeler, at least he could then say honestly that he had done all he could to stop the federal deputization of Portland Police officers. Until that day we will consider him a traitor just like Kate Brown (

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