PORTLAND, OR (KOIN/CNN) - Text messages between a police officer and the leader of a white nationalist group appear to show a friendly relationship between the two.
The two years worth of messages released Friday are between Portland Police Bureau Lt. Jeff Niiya and Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said the messages "confirm people's worst fears."
“There’s no question that the people in this community have long believed there’s a bias in our police bureau in favor of the white nationalism movement,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler, who is also police commissioner, is promising an investigation into what he calls disturbing texts.
Some of the texts reference a Patriot Prayer member who had a warrant out for his arrest.
“BTW, make sure Tiny has his court stuff taken care of. I was told on the radio at the Jamison Square event, he had a warrant. I told them we would not be arresting Tiny right now. So please be sure he’s good to go before coming down,” said a message from Niiya to Gibson.
The text messages have also alarmed some city council members.
“Paramilitary organizations act in lock-step,” said City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “So, if we have one police officer that’s doing this, there’s many more than just one.”
The police union that represents Niiya said Wheeler and Hardesty’s comments are a rush to judgment, saying that they “may serve to inflame and prejudice any administrative investigation and its outcome. Lt. Niiya was given direction by PPB management to establish relationships with known event or demonstration organizers.”
Wheeler said Niiya was not tasked with becoming friends with organizers.
“No, I don’t buy that at all. I don’t think that’s the appropriate role for any member of the Portland Police Bureau to play,” Wheeler said.
Niiya has been reassigned. Wheeler says he will lead a listening session for the public next week.