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Other Agencies Refuse To Send Officers To Portland After Mayor’s Tear Gas Ban

Portland, OR – The Oregon State Police (OSP) and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) said they will not send officers to help Portland police deal with ongoing riots unless Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler agrees to lift his tear gas ban.

The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) had requested the agencies’ assistance in anticipation of potential clashes between Black Lives Matter activists and a Proud Boys rally scheduled to take place at Delta Park on Sept. 26, Willamette Week reported.

OSP Superintendent Travis Hampton said in a Sept. 22 email to PPB brass that the state police are “willing to make a resource investment” to assist the PPB, but that the agency has “some serious reservations” about providing personnel to deal with “crowd control.”

“I understand PPB is unable to use CS gas in performance of their duties and OSP will not operate under these circumstances,” Superintendent Hampton said, referring to Wheeler’s CS gas ban.

“I recognize this is not a decision made by PPB, but you are duty bound to meet these expectations, including your incident commanders that may exercise control of my personnel,” he wrote. “By removing this tool from officers, this forces us (you) to insert physical bodies in between potentially violent and hostile crowds- increasing the risk of serious physical injury or death of officers and community members.”

Superintendent Hampton noted that CS gas can help mitigate the need for deadly force – especially when going into a situation where “conflict is highly predictable.”

He also expressed concern that PPB officers handling “crowd control duties” have not been allowed to “utilize the OSP body worn cameras” that Oregon Governor Kate Brown had previously offered.

Superintendent Hampton again acknowledged that the issue was “beyond the control of PPB.”

“Independent of the obvious value of evidence preservation and the prosecution aid, these cameras supply an element of officer accountability,” he wrote, adding that responding to “broad discovery requests for hundreds of body camera footage hours to support PPB arrests” has been “extremely resource intensive for OSP.”

“For the above reasons, OSP is reluctant to offer troopers to support PPB’s crowd control elements,” Superintendent Hampton said. “If the decision amend the CS gas prohibition is revisited, we are willing to discuss resource allocation.”

OSP agreed to provide uniform patrol coverage to aid PPB by working to interdict “the criminal element before they arrive” at the gatherings, and said they will also have armor and specialized vehicles available “to aid in officer rescue and the transport of personnel,” according to the email.

“Nothing in this response is a reflection of PPB command staff, whom I have the highest respect and admiration,” Superintendent Hampton added.

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese told PPB Deputy Chief Chris Davis in an email that he is concerned about the potential for violence during Saturday’s events, which are expected to draw as many as 3,000 people, Willamette Week reported.

PPB has already been dealing with violent riots for well over 100 days.

Sheriff Reese pointed out that officers have been attacked with Molotov cocktails and various other projectiles over the past several months, and that one person was fatally shot during the violent uprisings.

“Additionally, the number of firearms taken from arrestees or visibly present at demonstrations has created an added element of risk to managing the protests,” the sheriff added.

He said that Wheeler’s decision to ban PPB from using CS gas could result in officers and “participants” being severely injured.

“We are concerned that the prohibition on the use of CS gas leaves PPB with no sound tactical options to quickly disperse a large crowd engaged in dangerous acts of violence,” Sheriff Reese wrote. “Unfortunately, given the directions your team is working under, our Rapid Response Team is not available.”

MCSO will provide a Mobile Booking Team to assist PPB with processing arrests, and will also help patrol East Portland “so as to free up additional Portland police officers” to respond to the riots,” Sheriff Reese said.

In a video announcement on Sept. 10, Wheeler declared that he still expects PPB to restore order and arrest criminals, but that they will need to come up with a different way to stop rioters from killing them or Portland citizens rather than deploying CS gas.

“We must stand together as a community against violence and for progress,” the mayor said at the time. “We all want to focus on the fundamental issue at hand – justice for black people and all people of color.”

“That’s why as police commissioner, effective immediately and until further notice, I’m directing the Portland Police Bureau to end the use of CS gas for crowd control,” Wheeler continued. “During the last hundred days, Portland, Multnomah County, and state police have all relied on CS gas where there’s a threat to life safety. We need something different, and we need it now!”

The mayor failed to identify what that “different” solution might be, and did not unveil any plans to provide PPB with tools to replace those he has stripped away from them.

He then praised the Oregon Legislature for research they have been conducting into the use of CS gas “and what safer alternatives may exist that prevent the need for greater force.”

He further said he commits the City of Portland to “full participation in these reforms.”

Wheeler did not indicate how soon he and the legislature expect to have alternative tools and solutions available for law enforcement, who have now been under attack for well over three months.

He said he still expects police to arrest people who break the law, and that he still expects the district attorney to prosecute those offenders.

But newly-elected Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt recently announced that his office wouldn’t be prosecuting the vast majority of arrests that had been made during the riots that have cost local businesses in the tens of millions of dollars.

“Many of the people who have been arrested at these protests for low level offenses come to us with little to no prior criminal history, and we have little to no reason to believe they will re-offend,” Schmidt said in a statement on Aug. 11, according to KATU.

Although the mayor failed to describe the magnitude of the violence law enforcement officers have been battling for over 100 consecutive nights,  PPB did just that in a press release later in the day.

The department noted that they have repeatedly been subjected to violence by “a group of motivated and well-organized individuals” who have openly declared “they intend to kill or injure officers and destroy occupied buildings and dwellings.”

“Rioters lit County offices on fire in a building which houses hundreds of inmates and public employees, as well as the Portland Police Central Precinct,” PPB said. “Rioters barricaded doors shut at North Precinct and East Precinct and attempted to light the building on fire with employees and civilians inside.”

“Officers have been attacked with rocks, glass bottles, frozen water bottles, lasers capable of causing permanent eye damage, ball bearings and sharp objects launched from slingshots, paint balloons (to render their face shields useless) as well as fire bombs, large fireworks, and other items,” the department’s press release read.

Citizens have also become victims at the hands of the riotous mobs.

“Numerous community members have been assaulted, one person has been murdered, firearms have been discharged, and neighborhoods such as Kenton have been endangered by fires set in the streets and at the Portland Police Association office,” PPB said. “Neighbors have been threatened and intimidated by people engaged in the nightly violence. Businesses have suffered losses from arson, vandalism and mass theft.”

PPB disputed Wheeler’s claim that CS gas has been used by PPB as a “crowd control” tool.

“It is not. It is being used to disperse crowds only when there is a life safety event. Most recently, it was used to disperse a crowd from which a Molotov cocktail was thrown at officers and ended up injuring a community member who was on fire,” the department said.

CS gas has been deployed in residential areas at times, which police said is not something they want to have to do.

“However, the community should be asking the rioters why they are committing violence that threatens the very lives of others nearby,” the department pointed out. “When people gather lawfully, peacefully, there is no need for intervention by police, much less the use of CS gas.”

In addition to complaints about officers’ interactions with rioters, PPB has simultaneously been blasted for holding back.

“Crowds have come to our precincts, vandalized cars, gates, security cameras, etc. and police do not confront the crowd. When this occurs, the crowd escalates and does something such as light a building on fire so police will have to engage them,” the department explained.

PPB warned that Wheeler’s order banning the “lawful use of CS” could end up forcing officers to resort to “much higher levels of physical force” in order to address violence.

“CS, while effective, is a significantly lower level of force than impact weapons, which would very likely be necessary to disperse riotous groups with its prohibition,” the agency said. “We do not want to use gas. We do not want to use any force.”

Limiting the tools available to the city’s police force places officers and citizens at risk, police said.

“To make an arrest in the middle of a crowd intent on destruction and injuring people, it takes considerable resources–large numbers of officers that we do not have,” PPB explained. “Not only do we not have enough PPB officers to respond in this manner, our area partners have stated they will not come to our aid, given the climate in Portland.”

The department said they are being ordered to bring hundreds of rioters under control without having the manpower, resources, and tools they need to be able to do so.

“Lately, it seems more tools have been taken away then added,” the press release read.

Officers also don’t have the luxury of waiting for the legislature or Wheeler’s experts to figure out how they can do their jobs better, because the rioters aren’t waiting for those solutions either.

“The Police Bureau is in favor of research, but research takes time. Removing tools without well vetted alternatives, with policies and training in place prior to their use, places police and community members at risk,” PPB said. “No one has presented a solution of how officers can stop a rioting group who are threatening the lives of those present, especially given that in most of these cases, officers are clearly outnumbered, sometimes by hundreds.”

The department warned that it won’t be able to help create the environment where changes can be made if they don’t have the tools to protect their members and the citizens they serve.

The Oregon State Police (OSP) called Wheeler’s CS gas ban “reckless and shortsighted,” The Oregonian reported.

“The OSP will be forced to assess our involvement in assisting the city of Portland,” OSP Captain Timothy Fox told the paper. “We will not for force our troopers into this untenable situation and limit their ability to defend themselves and others.”

Wheeler admonished Chief Lovell in an email after the PPB issued its press release, FOX News reported.

“While I do not often issue directives to the Portland Police Bureau, when I do I expect them to be followed,” he lectured the chief. “Civilian oversight of the Police Bureau is set in the Portland City Charter, and every sworn officer takes an oath to abide by that charter. Professionalism and public service demand nothing less.”

“PPB’s decision to put out a press release questioning my direction was a serious breach of protocol and an inappropriate use of City communications resources,” Wheeler’s office said in a statement to FOX News. “I made it clear, in no uncertain terms, to the Chief that this cannot happen again.”

President Donald Trump has repeatedly accosted liberal city leaders throughout the nation for allowing rioters to wreak havoc and to attack federal, state, and local law enforcement officers.

The President recently referred to Wheeler as a “wacky Radical Left Do Nothing Democrat Mayor, and said that the city of Portland “will never recover with a fool for a Mayor,” FOX News reported.

On Monday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) officially identified the cities of Portland, Seattle, and New York as jurisdictions that have “refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities” and have allowed violence and destruction of property to continue.

The DOJ announced that the three cities met the criteria set forth in President Donald Trump’s “Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities,” which he issued on Sept. 2.

The DOJ concluded that Portland, Seattle, and New York City were placed on the list after being evaluated on multiple facets.

“The Department of Justice is continuing to work to identify jurisdictions that meet the criteria set out in the President’s Memorandum and will periodically update the list of selected jurisdictions as required therein,” the DOJ noted.

As a result of the “anarchist jurisdictions” designation, the three cities could be subject to a loss of federal funding, WPIX reported.

“When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest,” Attorney General William Barr said in the DOJ’s press release.

“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance. It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens,” Barr wrote.

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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.

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