PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland police say new legislation passed in Oregon dramatically limits their options when it comes to intervening during destructive protests and riots.
Lt. Jake Jensen with the Portland Police Bureau joined the Pearl District Neighborhood Association meeting Thursday night on the heels of widespread vandalism in the area.
Jensen said House Bill 2928 is the reason officers aren’t directly intervening as vandals damage downtown Portland property.
“The reason that we did not intervene goes back to what we talked about last month with HB 2928 and the restrictions placed on us in a crowd control environment,” he explained.
A KOIN 6 News crew watched as officers remained in their vehicles Tuesday night as the destruction unfolded.
“That’s the way our legislature has said we need to operate in a crowd control environment. So that’s the way we are going to operate in a crowd control environment,” Jensen said.
Jensen cited limitations regarding the use of pepper spray and other tools officers previously used.
“The fact of the matter is without being able to use pepper spray, without being able to use our 40mm less-lethal devices in that kind of environment, it really prevents us from having access to the tools we need in large part to keep ourselves safe,” he said.
Bringing in additional officers during these situations wouldn’t help matters, Jensen said.
“This issue, if I’m understanding, will not be solved no matter how many officers you bring back — yes or no?” asked Bill Bagnall, the secretary and director of communications with the Pearl District Neighborhood Association.
“Yes, that is correct,” Jensen replied.
“Does that mean we are now like a lawless city, anyone can come in and just bash around and do all the damage they want without any repercussions whatsoever?” asked resident Linda Witt.
Jensen said that’s not the case because people can still face repercussions later.
“In these cases, the consequences are going to come not on the night of, but in the follow-up investigation,” he said.
KOIN 6 reached out to legislators for comment on HB 2928 and is awaiting a reply.
Jensen said all law enforcement agencies must operate under Oregon law, including sheriff’s offices and the Oregon State Police. He said they are still trying to come up with solutions and are considering the use of shields as an additional layer of protection.