PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell spoke out on Thursday about the challenges facing the bureau as nightly protests continue in Portland.
He said he recently walked through downtown and talked to business owners who were impacted by COVID-19 and the protests. He also said the bureau’s resources have also been stretched thin, making calls for service and investigations a lower priority.
“It has a broader impact on just police services versus just what’s happening downtown on a nightly basis,” he said.
Recently, late-night violence at protests has frustrated some in the Black community, who say a “white fringe element” is distracting from their message with senseless destruction in a city where nearly three-quarters of residents are white and less than 6% are Black.
Lovell, who is Black, said the violence that occurred in North Portland last week was “offensive and hurtful” and cost the city at least $6.2 million in overtime for its officers.
“People in that neighborhood were upset. That’s not something they’re going to tolerate … and they came out and were very vocal,” Lovell said. “I think people sometimes look at the protest movement as one homogeneous group — and there’s definitely a segment here that is very violent.”
After Lovell spoke during the press conference, Black PPB Officer Jakhary Jackson spoke to the media about his experience out patrolling during the protests over the last six weeks.
“There are racist people out in the world, there are bad cops, but we don’t associate with those people. They make us look bad. That’s not something I stand for, that my coworkers stand for. I’ve been called the N word…I can’t even count in the time I’ve been a police officer, and having white officers jump in and defend me,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he sees hypocrisy from the protesters who yell at the officers during the protests.
“When you’re standing on the line and they’re getting called those names, are being accused, called racist, and you’ve seen those officers helping people of color, getting blood on them, trying to save someone’s life that’s been shot…gang violence, domestic violence… and you see them and they are truly trying to save someone’s life and they turn around and they are called a racist by people that have never seen anything like that, had to put themselves out there, it’s disgusting,” he said.
The PPB has faced backlash over their clashes with the demonstrators, especially over their use of crowd dispersal tactics. After this last chaotic weekend of confrontation between protesters and law enforcement in downtown Portland, more concern about tear gas being used to disperse the crowd was raised.
A week ago Gov. Kate Brown signed a law banning the use of tear gas except after a riot is declared, and officers are supposed to let protesters know it’s about to be used. This law and a recent temporary restraining order do not ban the use of tear gas, only limits it to certain circumstances.
CS gas can be used if lives or public safety is at risk. And the new Oregon law does not apply to any federal law enforcement officers who were at the Hatfield Federal Courthouse — and did use tear gas.
The activist group Don’t Shoot Portland has asked a judge to hold the City of Portland in contempt for violating the restraining order. Portland police officials won’t talk about the use of tear gas now that it’s being argued in court.
“We have to be able to use tactics and strategy with the goal of promoting life safety and trying to keep things safe,” PPB Lt. Tina Jones told KOIN 6 News. “Property damage is always going to be secondary to life safety.”
Meanwhile, there is growing dissension between city and state leaders over how to handle the ongoing clashes between protesters and police.