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Portland Mayor Gives Employees 40 Hours Paid Leave To Grieve Floyd’s Death

Portland, OR – Portland city employees have been given 40 hours of paid leave so they can grieve the deaths of George Floyd and others who have died during the past 400 years of black oppression, according to the mayor.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced the paid time off in an email to employees on Monday, KOIN reported.

“As a nation and as a City we continue to grieve the recent loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and others in the country and in our community,” Wheeler wrote. “We acknowledge that Black employees are experiencing a collective grief and trauma coming from a culmination of oppression that is over 400 years old.”

“We hear and understand that many of our employees, especially our BiPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color) employees, are deeply impacted by these recent events and are hurting,” Wheeler said in a press release, according to KATU.

The mayor said he has directed supervisors and managers “to approve the leave without question,” and encouraged other local employers to do the same, KOIN reported.

Wheeler called the move a “tremendous privilege.”

“We’re witnessing a dramatic shift in our nation, one that is urgently charting the path forward for restorative justice, inclusion and understanding,” he declared. “I feel tremendous responsibility, as well as tremendous privilege, to be a part of this historic movement. Thank you for walking that path with me as we continue to serve the City of Portland.”

PPB Chief Jami Resch, who is a white female, resigned from her position on Monday, The Oregonian reported.

She was replaced by PPB Lieutenant Chuck Lovell, an 18-year veteran-of-the-force, who is an African American.

On Tuesday, Wheeler said that his white privilege had previously made him blind to understanding that he should have acted more quickly to help stop alleged systemic racism and police brutality, The Oregonian reported.

He then announced that he is ending the Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) gun violence reduction unit, and said he will pull officers from the multi-agency Transit Police beginning in January of 2021, The Oregonian reported.

The mayor said he plans to establish a more robust police accountability board than the Independent Police Review committee that is already in place.

The superintendent of Portland Public Schools (PPS) already severed ties with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)’s school resource officer program.

“The time is now,” PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero tweeted on June 2. “I am discontinuing the regular presence of School Resource Officers @PPSConnect. We need to re-examine our relationship with the PPB.”

The school resource officer program provided area schools with 11 armed police officers, The Oregonian reported.

Guerrero said that in lieu of police, the district plans to invest “in direct student supports” such as counselors, culturally-specific partnerships and social workers for its 49,000-plus students.

“What we are hearing loudly and clearly from the community is that they do not want this direct, physical, ongoing presence in the schools,” Wheeler said, adding that he had already decided to end the program prior to Guerrero’s decision, OPB reported.

Although armed officers will no longer patrol the hallways of the city’s schools, police will still respond to calls for service on any of the campuses whenever they are needed, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner said, according to The Oregonian.

Students likely won’t have to wait more than ten extra minutes for officers to arrive during an active shooter.

Guerrero made the decision to discontinue the program in the wake of the May 25 in-custody death of 46-year-old George Floyd.

“These violent acts traumatize us as students, family members, educators, and community members, and I share in your grief and anguish,” Guerrero said at the time, according to OPB. “Now more than ever, we must remain resolute in our commitment to Black students.”

Former Officer Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death during his arrest. His charges have since been upgraded to second-degree murder.

On June 3, former Minneapolis Police Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder for their role in Floyd’s arrest.

The officers had responded to a call about a counterfeit $20 that Floyd had allegedly used to make a purchase at a deli.

Store employees pointed out the suspect to police and they arrested him.

The complaint used to charge Chauvin said Floyd actively resisted arrest and then fought being put in the back of a police car once he had been handcuffed.

Viral cell phone video showed then-Officer Chauvin and three other officers holding Floyd on the ground.

The video showed Officer Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, during which time the suspect lost consciousness.

Chauvin remained on Floyd’s neck for almost three minutes after he was unresponsive.

Floyd was pronounced dead 90 minutes later at the hospital.

After three days of violent riots and looting that left Minneapolis and its sister city, St. Paul, in flames, the state investigative agency announced it making an arrest.

Chauvin was taken into custody by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension four days after the incident and held on a $500,000 bond, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington announced, according to WCCO.

According to charging documents, the medical examiner’s preliminary report found no physical evidence that Floyd had suffered from asphyxiation or strangulation at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

The preliminary autopsy findings indicated Floyd had died from a combination of his underlying medical problems and possible substances.

“The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death,” according to the complaint.

But veteran forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden told reporters on Monday at the Floyd family press conference that his independent autopsy determined that the man had died of asphyxiation much in the same way Eric Garner died from a choke hold in New York in 2014, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

The Eric Garner autopsy report showed no damage to any area of his neck, and it was determined that he died of a medical emergency induced by officers who were arresting him.

But the final autopsy findings released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office hours later confirmed that Floyd had died from heart failure.

“Cause of death: Cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” Floyd’s autopsy said. “Manner of death: Homicide.”

“How injury occurred: Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s),” the report continued. “Other significant conditions: Arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease; fentanyl intoxication; recent methamphetamine use.”

The toxicology results showing fentanyl and methamphetamine directly contradicted assertions by the forensic pathologist that Floyd’s family’s attorneys hired to dispute the initial medical examiner’s report.

And a postmortem nasal swab showed that Floyd tested positive SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, according to KSTP. He had previously tested positive for COVID-19 in April 3.

Protests erupted in the Twin Cities after Floyd’s death, leaving both Minneapolis and the state’s capital of St. Paul burned, looted, and destroyed.

Rioters overran and torched the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct where the officers accused of Floyd’s homicide were assigned.

Protests spread across the United States, and became very violent in major cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Portland, Oakland, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington, DC.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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