Portland Police Chief Orders Officers To Remove Facebook Images Supporting Darren Wilson

| by Will Hagle

The grand jury tasked with deciding whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for charges relating to the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. is expected to make an announcement soon regarding the officer’s imminent legal fate.

The divisive issue has racial and political implications, with protesters believing Wilson represents an abuse of authority while others believe he was just doing his job. Awaiting the grand jury's decision has turned into a landmark event for social justice, with protests taking place throughout the country. According to a recent CNN poll, 57% believe Wilson should be charged with a crime, compared with 31% who say he shouldn’t be charged and 12% who have no opinion. 

Portland police chief Mike Reese, however, is refusing to allow those under his leadership to that category of 31% that believe Wilson to be innocent. Reese ordered several Portland officers to take down images of the Portland Police Bureau badge covered with a band reading “I Am Darren Wilson” that they had posted on Facebook. The images were posted by the officers in order to express solidarity with Wilson as his actions are being tested not only by the grand jury, but by a large segment of the population that’s increasingly fed up with the abuse of power exercised by police forces throughout the country. 

According to a statement from Reese delivered Monday morning, his issue with the social media statement is that it was made using the official badge of the Portland Police department. “The image displayed does not represent this organization and was very inflammatory in nature,” Reese said. “Officers certainly have a right to have and express their opinions but not using an official badge of the Portland Police Bureau. The badge represents all members of the organization, past and present, and is an important symbol in our community that must not be tarnished. I’ve asked the Professional Standards Division to review this matter for possible policy violations.” 

There are three known officers that participated in the social media stunt: Rich Storm, Rob Blanck and Kris Barber. According to Oregon Live, the images were reported to the Oregonian by freelance writer Michael Klepfer. After news broke that a group of Portland officers were vocalizing their support for Wilson, Reese delivered his statement.  Portland Mayor Charlie Hales also expressed his disapproval of the images. “The officers made a political statement by altering the city’s official badges. They were wrong to do so. Their actions do a disservice to the hundreds of Portland Police Officers who are building relationships and partnerships with the community every day,” read a portion of Hales’ statement. 

Edward Magee, spokesman for the prosecuting attorney in the case against Wilson, claimed that the grand jury’s decision would be revealed later today. An exact time has yet to be confirmed.