Feds Blast Portland for Not Disclosing 'Prayer of the Alt Knight' Meme During Cop Training

Department of Justice (DOJ) civil rights lawyers have demanded the city of Portland, Oregon, hand over documents after a police training PowerPoint slide surfaced that included a far-right meme mocking violence against protesters.

DOJ attorneys Jonas Geissler and Jared Hager issued the letter Tuesday to Portland's city attorney and police bureau castigating them for not providing the feds a heads-up about the inflammatory training material before they were released to the press.

"The night before, the City informed us for the first time about what the City described as an ongoing internal investigation to determine who authored certain (Rapid Response Team) training slides that have varying degrees of offensive content, incorrect guidance, and false or misleading information related to (the Portland police's) crowd management policies and practices," the letter states.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's office revealed on Friday that city officials discovered in September the offending PowerPoint slide used to train the Portland Police Bureau's now-dissolved Rapid Response Team while reviewing documents for a lawsuit related to the city's 2020 racial justice protests.

Portland Police Arrest Protesters
U.S. Department of Justice lawyers have blasted Portland city officials for not turning over police training documents that included an alt-right meme and mocked violence against protesters. Above, police detain passengers in a mutual aid van during an Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage protest Oct. 11, 2020, in Portland, Oregon. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

The meme depicts a police officer wearing riot gear in a violent confrontation with protesters, Willamette Week reported. Imposed on the image is the text of the "Prayer of the Alt Knight." Using biblically evocative language, the meme calls protesters "dirty" hippies with unpaid bills who might learn a lesson after being "stitched and bandaged" as well as "cuffed and stuffed" by police.

Mayor Wheeler said in a statement that he was "disgusted" at the "offensive content" and that an investigation into the matter has been underway since September.

Update (1/18, 8:30 p.m.): This story has been updated with comment from the city of Portland.

The Portland Police Bureau referred questions to the city attorney.

"The training presentation was evidence in an ongoing Internal Affairs investigation, and before disclosing the information, the City hoped to complete the necessary fact-gathering to provide additional information about the presentation and the slide, including its origin and whether it was presented during training," Robert Taylor, Portland city attorney, told Newsweek in an email. "We have received the DOJ's letter, and we plan to fully respond to the DOJ's three requests to address their concerns."

The city of Portland has been under a settlement with the DOJ since 2014 over law enforcement's treatment of people with mental illness. The agreement requires improved police training and other reforms to be overseen by the department.

Taylor said the city planned to provide the Justice Department the materials in its annual request for documents due Jan. 31.

The DOJ said in their letter Tuesday the city should have turned over the training materials when they were developed as required by the agreement. Instead, the department said, some police and city employees "knew or should have known about these materials for years."

"Had the City informed us of the existence of these training materials at the time, we would have had the opportunity to provide substantial edits and decline to approve the training," the letter stated. "The existence of these...training materials might have materially impacted our assessments of the City's compliance with the Agreement."

Portland saw nightly confrontations between police and demonstrators during the racial justice protests that swept the country in 2020. Portland police came under criticism for their aggressive response, drawing multiple lawsuits from injured demonstrators.

The letter notes that the Justice Department has been seeking to resolve the city's ongoing issues "relating to training and crowd control misconduct." The newly disclosed training materials were "central" to the DOJ's 2021 report on the city's compliance with the agreement, it added.

Justice Department lawyers are now directing city officials to provide original, unredacted electronic training records for the unit the meme was presented to since 2018, as well as updates on the city's investigation into the offensive training material and how it will conform to the agreement.

Newsweek reached out to the Department of Justice for comment.