PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Officers with Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team, which was at the forefront of policing protests, voted to resign from the unit en masse on Wednesday night, the mayor’s office confirmed to KOIN 6 News.
The mass resignation from the unit comes 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.
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, Portland Police Bureau 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.”
Davis said the bureau is working to ensure safety for the city following the mass resignation. If any protests devolve into riots in the coming days, he said there will still be a police response from other officers within the bureau “with as close to adequate resources as we can get.” Some groups have advertised “direct action” events starting Thursday night. Past “direct action” protests have commonly led to riots in Portland.
In an interview with KOIN 6 News on Wednesday, Daryl Turner, the Portland Police Association’s executive director, called the indictment of Budworth “100% politically charged.” Turner expressed his frustration over the number of cases connected to riots from last summer that Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt dismissed or declined to prosecuted along with issues with Portland City Hall.
“I know we’re not going to get support from City Hall; I know we’re not going to get support from the DA’s office but we surely need the support of our command structure,” he said. “During these protests, our hands were tied to what we could do, if we were using CS gas we wouldn’t have to worry about the hands-on approach or less-lethal impact munitions. But of course, that was taken away from us and the city did not fight it.”
District Attorney Mike Schmidt released a statement on the response team’s disbanding Thursday afternoon, saying that management and staffing of the Rapid Response Team falls within the purview of the leadership of the Portland Police Bureau.
“I have confidence that the Bureau will continue their mission to maintain public safety. In the meantime, my office will continue to focus on the fair and just prosecution of criminal matters. We cannot expect the community to trust law enforcement if we hold ourselves to a lower standard,” Schmidt said.
On Wednesday, Schmidt told OPB there would be more investigations into officer conduct in connection with the 2020 protests.
Mayor Ted Wheeler released the following statement Thursday afternoon on the officers’ resignation:
“Late last night, I learned that the Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team voted to resign their voluntary service on this crowd control unit.
“The City of Portland has the personnel and the resources to ensure our community’s safety. I have directed the Portland Police Bureau to prepare mobile field forces to respond to any public safety needs, including potential violence related to mass gatherings. Also, I have spoken to Governor Brown, and the Oregon State Police is making members of its Mobile Response Team available on standby. We are also coordinating with other regional law enforcement partners.
“Resigning members of the Rapid Response Team remain sworn members of the Portland Police Bureau. I want to acknowledge the toll this past year has taken on them and their families—they have worked long hours under difficult conditions. I personally heard from some of them today, and I appreciate their willingness to share their concerns about managing the many public gatherings that often were violent and destructive.
“It is my expectation, and the community’s expectation, that the City remains committed to public safety and effective police oversight. City leaders will continue working in partnership with Portlanders, community organizations and police leadership to reform our community safety system.”
Commissioner Jo Ann 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,.”
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.
Schmidt’s office has declined interview requests from KOIN 6.
Stay with us as this story develops.