Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says he never ordered police to ignore 911 calls from ICE employees who felt their lives were threatened during the June standoff between riotous protesters and employees who worked at the ICE building in Oregon’s biggest city.
Mr. Wheeler said he did tell police not to respond to threats to property or the building, saying the federal government has its own police for that.
But the mayor says employees who felt threatened after they left the building, or who thought they were facing “an immediate life safety concern” were able to call police and get a response.
“I am compelled to respond to your inaccurate and inflammatory letter dated July 30, in which you claim that we have a ‘policy of not responding to calls for police services from ICE employees.’ No such policy exists,” Mr. Wheeler wrote.
He was responding to a cease-and-desist letter sent earlier this week on behalf of the National ICE Council, the union that represents deportation officers at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE officers said the mayor fueled the chaotic situation in June that saw protesters blockade the building for more than a week, shutting down operations, as they demanded the entire agency be abolished.
The officers also reported at least two instances where employees had their cars damaged by protesters, and in one instance an employee said he was followed and menaced as he drove to pick up his daughter from day camp.
The employees reported that their calls to police were not answered satisfactorily.
Mr. Wheeler, in his letter dated Tuesday, asked for details of those kinds of incidents. He said police did, in fact, respond to calls from both ICE employees and the Federal Protective Service, Homeland Security’s internal police division, “when there were imminent life safety threats.”
The mayor said his directive not to have local police defend the property of the building where ICE rented its office space was based on his belief that the government has its own police who should be responsible for that.
But Chris Crane, the president of the National ICE Council, said there is no such federal police force housed at the Portland facility.
“I have no idea what the mayor is talking about. We have a handful of employees in the building, which also includes non-law enforcement staff. Over a hundred federal officers had to travel in from other areas to take control and make the facility safe,” he said.
“While the mayor ordered Portland Police not to respond, and days went by waiting for federal reinforcements to arrive, our employees were trapped in the building by an angry mob,” he added. “We lost control of the building for almost two weeks before federal officers could be brought in to take the building back.”