Report blames Portland police for protest violence

Protests

The City Council will consider the report that calls for reforms to limit the police on Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Portland Police line up to block from the street from protesters rallying at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Allison Dinner)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The City Council will consider a report Wednesday, Sept. 22, that largely blames Portland police for violence at political protests and calls for a series of reforms.

The report will be presented by the Citizen Review Committee’s Crowd Control and Use of Force workgroup, which, according to the report, was created to critically examine the bureau’s use of force policies, training and tactics and make recommendations based on best practices and legal standards.

“In response to the murder of George Floyd by police in May 2020, thousands of Portlanders took to the streets daily for months in protest of police brutality and the disproportionate impact on communities of color. During these protests, many concerning confrontations between Portland Police and the community occurred. In response, this workgroup set out to gather community input about what was happening on the ground at protests through a public forum and online surveys,” the report reads.

The report is based in part on work done by Portland United Against Hate, which used a crowdsourced tool called ReportHatePDX to gather “first-hand testimonials from citizens engaged in First Amendment activities over the summer of 2020.”

“The resulting report offered stories from Portland citizens who had experienced police violence and hate. The report showed that Portland Police engaged in aggressive crowd control measures that left many individuals with lasting injuries and trauma. The data also described police who targeted journalists, legal observers and medics,” the workgroup report said.

The report also includes feedback from a July 8, 2020, community forum where participants felt the police were biased in favor of right-wing groups and against Black Lives Matter protesters.

Recommendations included in the workgroup report include:

Equipment use recommendations

• Make permanent the existing ban on the use of CS gas by PPB, and extend it to other chemical weapons used for crowd management.

• Create a plan to mitigate the risks to public health and the environment in the event of chemical weapons use.

• Implement a more restrictive standard governing force that poses risks of indiscriminate harm to bystanders and/or individuals gathered in crowds.

• Create clear and detailed guidance that establishes what levels of force are permissible under common circumstances that may arise in the course of crowd management.

• Commit to transparency regarding officer decision-making in situations where force is used in crowd management, including by publicly releasing reports relevant to the use-of-force event.

De-escalation recommendations

• Adopt “soft clothes” for protest response. Opt for ordinary patrol uniforms or clothing that does not suggest the expectation of violence or combat when attending or responding to events where violence has not occurred.

• Facilitate movement of people and crowds at protests instead of meeting them with protest lines.

• Prioritize clear communication. Give real-time, calm and clear descriptions of police actions over the speaker system. Provide clear and timely information about impending police action.

• Adopt an “out of sight” response strategy and examine the necessity of a large, visible police presence at protest events.

• Avoid “less lethal” munitions and cease use of weapons that target groups, rather than individuals, when largely peaceful crowds are present.

• Avoid force as an escalating act. Encourage and recognize officers’ empathetic acts. Casual interactions, rendering aid and a less-threatening police presence (such as officers on bicycles) may put community members at ease and build trust.

Bias and training recommendations

• Require comprehensive cultural diversity and anti-racism training vetted by members of vulnerable communities.

• Increase anti-bias training hours and frequency.

• Assess Bureau applicants and existing employees for harmful biases.

• Provide officers with the opportunity to learn and retain necessary skills.

• Develop de-escalation training aligned with the Newark Police Department and Madison Model frameworks to support “force as a last resort” policies.

• Integrate robust officer wellness training throughout the Bureau.

• Publicly report training procedures and policies currently in use by PPB and disclose proposed training procedures and policies to the public for comment before implementation.

The full workgroup report is here.

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