That’s become frustrating for the city of Portland, Mich., a quiet community of less than 4,000 people whose police department often gets mistaken for the one in Oregon.
“PSA,” City Manager Tutt Gorman wrote on the city’s Facebook page last Wednesday. “We’re not Portland, Oregon.”
Sharing a name with the much larger city in Oregon has been a source of confusion ever since the Portland, Mich., police department created a Facebook page in 2014, Gorman wrote. But over the previous 24 hours, he noted, there had been “an aggressive spike” in complaints “apparently involving civil unrest and Antifa groups shutting down streets in Portland, OREGON.”
The day before he posted his message, Fox News panelists had discussed an “antifa mob” that blocked traffic during a protest against police violence in Portland, Ore. The segment resulted in a deluge of calls to Portland’s city hall, Willamette Week reported.
Gorman didn’t speculate about what might caused the uptick in complaints to officials in Portland, Mich. Instead, he emphasized that the grievances didn’t have anything to do with the sleepy town.
“It’s important that our residents recognize the context of these complaints/posts and that they are in no way affiliated with the Portland Police Department of Portland, Michigan,” he wrote.
Most of the one-star reviews have since been wiped from the Michigan police department’s Facebook page. But while talking to local media outlets this week, Portland Police Chief Star Thomas read a selection of the messages that she had received.
“You should be embarrassed for what you let happen to the citizens of your city when Antifa was blocking traffic and harassing drivers,” said one.
“A department unsurprisingly but still disturbingly giving material support to Nazis by selectively protecting bigots and refusing to help justify counter protesters,” said another post Thomas read.
“You are truly useless,” said a third. “Letting mob rule? Why are you even there?”
Heated protests involving antifa and Nazis are not exactly a regular occurrence in Portland, Mich. A scan of the department’s recent Facebook posts indicate that police there are typically concerned with road closures, bike thefts, community fundraisers, reminders about the fireworks ordinances, lost dogs and the occasional Amber Alert. Thomas told Fox 17 that there have only been two homicides since the city was founded in 1869.
“There was something going on clearly in the city of Portland, Oregon,” Gorman told Fox 17 on Monday. “And so it became such that it was necessary to point out or make a statement to clarify that these had nothing to do with our local department and it certainly does not reflect our set of values and certainly not our residents either.”
One likely explanation for the mix-ups: The police department in Portland, Ore., is officially known as the Portland Police Bureau. So if someone were to type “Portland Police Department” into Facebook, they might inadvertently end up addressing the chief of a tiny agency with only eight officers. (The law enforcement agency in Portland, Maine, is listed as “Portland Maine Police Department” on Facebook.)
Adding to the potential for confusion, Portland, Ore., is located on the Columbia and Willamette rivers and known for its 14 bridges. On Facebook, the user photo for the Portland, Mich., police department is a badge that displays the city’s motto — “City of Two Rivers” — and a truss bridge. The department’s cover photo is a low-resolution image of a bridge at night, which could easily have been taken in Portland, Ore.
Last week, the Michigan-based police department changed its name on Facebook to “Portland Police Department — Michigan.” But they’re still getting messages intended for the other Portland, which has almost 650,000 residents and nearly 1,000 police officers.
“Since I’ve put Portland, Michigan, on there, we have gotten two additional [misdirected] messages,” Thomas told WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids. “I’m not sure what the solution is going to be.”
The confusion can have serious ramifications: Thomas often receives messages that contain tips about crimes and has to try to figure out which law enforcement agency they were intended for, she told Fox 17. Along with Oregon and Maine, states including Arkansas, Connecticut, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming all have towns or cities named “Portland.”
Meanwhile, some Oregonians have been contacting the Michigan city — and apologizing.
“I think both of our towns just want to be left alone,” wrote one Facebook commenter, who blamed the unrest in Portland, Ore., on antifa activists. “I never knew there was a Portland in Michigan but sorry you’re getting pulled into all this garbage. You seem like a lovely town.”
“As a resident of a suburb of Portland, OREGON . . . I am very sorry your community has to put up with the hatred that comes out of my community,” wrote another. “You have a beautiful small town and I can only imagine what it’s like to like in such a place where everyone is friendly and disagreements are settled at a local coffee shop over breakfast, not in angry rants and protests.”