by Dirk VanderHart
After spending years railing for reform in Portland’s justice system, Teressa Raiford wants in.
Raiford, a prominent Black Lives Matter protestor and founder of the accountability group Don’t Shoot Portland, has announced a last minute write-in campaign for Multnomah County sheriff. In doing so, she’s hoping to mount a challenge to current sheriff and former Portland police chief Mike Reese, who’s running uncontested to finish the remainder of Dan Staton’s term.
It’s a quixotic effort, to say the least. Many voters already have their ballots, and some have certainly already voted. That’s not lost on Raiford’s nascent campaign.
“If you already sealed your ballot in the envelop but haven’t sent it in yet, you can still #WriteinRaiford and vote #Teressa4Sheriff,” a post on a new campaign Facebook page reads. “Just take your ballot to the Multnomah County Elections Division at 1040 SE Morrison St, tell them you made a mistake on your ballot, and they’ll give you a new one!”
A staple of Raiford’s sales pitch is her distaste for Reese. She notes the former chief’s first day on the job coincided with a still-controversial 2010 shooting of Keaton Otis. She pins a federal lawsuit over Portland police abuses on Reese (though it has roots in things that happened before he was chief). And she tweaks Reese for his since-retracted claim that the Occupy Portland protests of 2011 had delayed cops in responding to a rape call.
“Mike Reese is unfit to be the Sheriff,” Raiford says in a press release issued this morning. “He was a bad police chief, and he’ll be a bad sheriff.”
There’s some recent history of activists mounting last-minute write-in campaigns for sheriff. Jessie Sponberg, who formally ran for Portland mayor earlier this year, ran a little-advertised and similarly late write-in campaign against Staton in 2014. It’s not clear how many total votes he got, but write-in candidates received 2,341 votes in that race, about 3.7 percent of the vote.
And there are reasons Raiford’s effort might garner greater interest. For one, the campaign appears to be more-organized than Sponberg’s (though I believe he technically started his earlier in the process). More important, Raiford has been a highly visible presence of late—acting as one of the central voices speaking out against a just-ratified contract with the Portland Police Bureau, and serving as a central figure in the protests against the contract.
The sheriff’s office is largely concerned with jail management, though its patrol duties have expanded lately. Raiford last ran for office in 2014, when she filed to challenge Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith.
Hit the jump for Raiford’s full announcement.
(Portland, OR)—Amidst controversy, public outcry from black lives matter activists, and a current US Department of Justice investigation into Mayor Charlie Hales and the Portland Police Bureau’s use of excessive force, community members from the group Don’t Shoot Portland are mounting a write in campaign against Sheriff Mike Reese.
Their candidate is Teressa Raiford, a native of Portland whose family has lived in the city for generations. In addition to being an entrepreneur and consultant, she is a long time community organizer and police accountability advocate whose work around the issue of gun violence led to a meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama in 2013. Raiford began organizing around ending violence in 2010 after her nephew was shot and killed in Old Town.
In 2014 in the wake of massive nationwide outcry over the killing of unarmed black people by police, Raiford formed the group Don’t Shoot Portland, which is a community action plan focused on ending police violence and oppression, and creating positive change in our community. Over the last couple weeks the group has boldly and publicly criticized the new police union contract negotiated by Mayor Hales, the City Hall closures and police brutality ordered by the Mayor that accompanied attempts by citizens to engage in the process around the approval of the contract in public city council meetings, and earlier this month the group also held an overnight protest at Mayor Hales’ house calling for his immediate resignation.
Raiford has recently been focusing on spearheading meetings with prison officials and commissioners in Multnomah County about transparency in process and the safety of inmates. It is with that work in mind: black lives matter, police and prison reform, accountability and making our community safer for everyone that Raiford and her supporters are mounting the write in campaign.
Mike Reese retired as Chief of the Portland Police Bureau in 2014 after a tenure marked by controversy. His first day as Chief of Police was May 12, 2010, the same day that Portland Police officers murdered Keaton Otis. Otis had a history of mental illness, and was pulled over because police said he looked “like a gangster.” Police failed to recognize that Otis was having a mental health crisis and shot him 23 times killing him. Mike Reese spent almost his entire time as Portland’s police chief with his bureau under investigation by the US Department of Justice for a pattern of excessive use of force against people with mental illness.
In November of 2011, Mike Reese lied to the public and was forced to publicly apologize for it. He told reporters that a large Occupy Portland protest delayed police for hours in responding to a rape victim’s 9-1-1 call. According to the Oregonian, however, records show that the 9-1-1 call in question was actually made two weeks before the protest, and that there was in fact no protest in the city the day that call was made.
In August of 2016, Reese was appointed interim sheriff after Dan Stanton was forced to retire in the wake of accusations of profiling, sexism, bullying, retaliation, attempting to influence union votes, and using department money to buy a car.
When asked why she wants to be the new Sheriff, Raiford said, “Mike Reese is unfit to be the Sheriff. He was a bad police chief, and he’ll be a bad sheriff.”
“We need a Sheriff who doesn’t lie and protect killer cops. We need a Sheriff who can provide this county with real leadership and change,” Raiford continued. “We need somebody who can change the toxic culture in our law enforcement system, somebody who understands that brown and black lives matter in Multnomah County. We need someone who will stand up the Portland Mayor and say, ‘Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputies will no longer help you sweep thousands of houseless people from one tent camp to another without any real solutions for helping them get stable housing.’ And we need somebody who will end the use of our deputies and our county’s resources as a tool of the landlords to forcibly displace and evict struggling people from their homes.”
For more information on Raiford and her write in campaign for Multnomah County Sheriff, visit:
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