PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — During a press conference Friday afternoon, Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell said it would be “reasonable to expect” protests as a reaction to Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal hours earlier.
“Here in Portland especially, it’s reasonable to expect there will be some type of reaction to the verdict,” Lovell said. “Like we’ve said many, many times, we’re supportive of peaceful protest, people exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Social media posts indicate there will be a protest in downtown Portland Friday night.
The press conference comes hours after Kyle Rittenhouse was cleared of all charges in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Lovell said PPB has been monitoring the case “very closely” and the bureau is working on plans for Friday night and the weekend.
“It’s when people engage in criminal activity, violence or vandalism and destruction that we have issues,” he added.
Lovell said it’s possible PPB could call in help from other agencies to help police respond to any protests. He expects the bureau will coordinate with the Oregon State Police.
Whether PPB would call in the National Guard “depends on what information we have and what we feel the level of threat is,” Lovell said.
Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all five charges Friday after pleading self-defense in the deadly Kenosha shootings during a racial justice protest. He had been charged with homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangering.
Rittenhouse killed two men and injured a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle during a protest about police violence against Black people.
2020 protests and PPB’s staffing shortage
The bureau has faced a backlash for their use of crowd dispersal tactics during the summer protests of 2020.
In July 2020, Lovell said the bureau’s resources were stretched thin as nightly protests continued.
According to exit interview documents released by the city after a public records request, which were first reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive, PPB officers said the uptick in crimes and overall downturn of Portland were why many officers were leaving or retiring.
The lack of resources has continued into 2021 as many officers left the force. Portland has continued to struggle to staff the city’s police force amid a year with a record number of homicides. Police have also repeatedly said in the past year they have not been able to prioritize these petty crimes.
On the budget surplus and hiring more officers
In Friday’s press conference, Lovell also addressed public safety and the city’s recent approval of a historic budget surplus.
“We’re grateful to the city council for their unanimous decision to provide additional funding to the police bureau,” Lovell said as the press conference started. “This is a good first step and a really hopeful step for us.”
He said he is optimistic about the bureau’s attempt to hire more officers, specifically within the Focused Intervention Team as the city continues to battle gun violence.
“But I want to remind people that this process takes time,” he added.
Lovell spoke on a rise in deadly crashes across the metro area — three in the last week — attributing some of the increase to seasonal changes and inclement weather.
“We’re up to 58 [fatalities] for the year for Portland,” he said. “So I think it’s incumbent on all of us to remind folks to slow down, be cautious.”