PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Various local leaders and authorities have released statements following the mass exodus of officers from the Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team.
All officers with PPB’s Rapid Response Team, which was at the forefront of policing protests, voted to resign from the unit on Wednesday night. The mass resignation came on the heels of an indictment of one of the officers in the unit on Tuesday and a state Justice Department review into another detective on the team, which was announced earlier on Wednesday.
On Friday morning, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Scott Erik Asphaug and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon Kieran L. Ramsey issued the following statement in response:
“Communities across the nation have endured many challenges over the past year as they attempt to address racial inequities in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. In Portland, those challenges included large and sometimes violent demonstrations that strained our local resources and repeatedly placed officers in the difficult position of policing large and sometimes hostile crowds. As law enforcement officials, we recognize that community members and law enforcement officers alike are responsible for their conduct and that our judicial system is designed to address wrongdoing equally, whether by community members or law enforcement officers.
“Like all Portlanders, we are proud of our community’s long history of peaceful civic activism and free speech. We are also proud of the federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who continue to respond to Portland demonstrations to ensure all community members can exercise their First Amendment rights safely and without the threat of violence. We urge community members to join law enforcement in helping to ensure all future demonstrations remain peaceful and inclusive.”
Several hours afterward, the Portland Police Association released their own statement, signed by PPA Executive Director Daryl Turner. It read, in part:
“Our RRT volunteered for their duties because they truly believed in what they were doing—protecting our residents, our communities, and our City. But our Rapid Response Team members did not volunteer to have Molotov cocktails, fireworks, explosives, rocks, bottles, urine, feces, and other dangerous objects thrown at them. Nor did they volunteer to have threats of rape, murder, and assault on their families hurled at them. They did not volunteer to suffer serious injuries, to be subject to warrantless criticism and false allegations by elected officials, or to suffer through baseless complaints and lengthy investigations devoid of due process.
“Yesterday, the entire Portland Police Bureau Rapid Response Team resigned from their voluntary positions. Until now, they have continued to come to work every day, exhausted and injured. The only glue holding the team together was their commitment, dedication, and integrity to serve their communities. But that glue dissolved when political venom demonized these public servants for doing exactly what they were tasked to do—restore peace and order in our City.”
Turner’s statement accused local politicians — namely, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty — of supporting nightly destruction for their own personal agendas. The statement claimed that if the RRT’s resignation proved anything, it was that the priorities of Portland’s elected leaders had failed.
According to the statement, RRT members have “had enough and were left with no other alternative but to resign from their voluntary positions.”
The RRT’s memo
Through a public records request, KOIN 6 obtained a copy of the memo sent to Chief Chuck Lovell announcing the officers’ resignation from the RRT. Team members cite a long list of reasons contributing to their decision, including significant injuries sustained during the 2020 demonstrations, changes in policies that were approved and later criticized by leadership, emotional and physical tolls on individual officers, safety concerns both in their professional roles and private lives, and a “lack of available video to show events from the perspective of team members.” The memo calls for the City of Portland to provide body-worn cameras to officers.
Read the full memo below.
Hardesty calls for further action
On Thursday, Commissioner Hardesty called for City Council to disband the Rapid Response Team following the mass resignation.
“I remain deeply concerned these RRT resignations are yet another example of a rogue paramilitary organization that is unaccountable to the elected officials and residents of Portland,” she said in a statement. “We should formally disband the RRT, but through Council action.”
Officer Corey Budworth was indicted on one count of fourth-degree assault by a grand jury for allegedly using a baton on a freelance photojournalist during a declared riot on Aug. 18, 2020. Meanwhile, Det. Erik Kammerer’s use of force is currently under review by the Oregon Department of Justice.
In a statement released on Thursday, the PPB said the officers left the unit but will continue their regular assignments.
“Last night, all of them, the police officer, detective and sergeant members of our Rapid Response Team met and as a result of that discussion, voted to — as a group — to offer their resignation from their assignment with the Rapid Response Team,” Acting Portland Police Chief Chris Davis said during a meeting with the media late Thursday morning. “These people will all still be Portland Police Bureau employees, but the Rapid Response Team is a voluntary assignment within the police bureau. This represents approximately 50 people that we’re talking about.”
Davis told KOIN 6 the investigation and indictment factored into the officers’ decision to resign from the unit but they weren’t the sole reasons.
“I think that really this is a culmination of a long process and it’s not just an indictment that caused this to happen,” he said. “They’re not feeling like the sacrifice they’ve made necessarily has been understood very well.”
Besides policing protests, the Rapid Response Team is also trained and responsible for responding to other events such as large-scale searches and human-made and natural disasters.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office has so far declined interview requests from KOIN 6.
This is a developing story.