PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When law enforcement becomes aware of groups planning a large protest, planning for the public safety response goes on for days, sometimes weeks, as authorities gather information.
That’s one of the items talked about during a panel discussion that included department leaders from the Portland Police Bureau. This public discussion comes just a week before a planned August 17 protest along the waterfront that has indications it could turn violent.
Officials said they gather information from social media and from liaisons that work to contact leaders of certain groups to learn about their plans.
Leaders of the Rapid Response Team said officers undergo additional training on how to handle these situations that involves learning about crowd behavior and how the groups may respond to police presence.
People have been critical of past protests when some said officers didn’t step in as crimes were happening. But the leaders at the panel discussions explained it’s not always easy to take action because, in part, the safety of the officers is involved.
“There’s so much going on, they’re paying attention to so many things, they may not perceive what is initially happening during that assault,” Lt. Franz Schoening with the PPB Rapid Response Team said. “And by the time they notice what’s going on, trying to evaluate whether there’s a crime occuring, who the primary aggressor is, they’re trying to figure out if they can safely go in and take action, communicating up the chain of command to the command post what’s happening, calling for additional resources by the time we get all that done, it’s over. And the best we can do is try and track that person who committed a crime as they leave that area to make an arrest afterwards.”
Police are actively working on a plan for the August 17 protest. Earlier this week, Mayor Ted Wheeler told KOIN 6 News “things will be different” that day. He said the city has already been in touch with federal, state and regional law enforcement as well as with Gov. Brown’s office for additional resources and help that day.