The mass resignation of 50 police officers from the Portland Rapid Response Team following the indictment of one of its members on 4th-degree assault charges has shaken the city’s public safety membership to its core.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, who many RRT officers blamed for not standing up and supporting the unit when they came under fire, is organizing “mobile field forces” to deal with any crowd control issues.
“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,” Wheeler said in a statement Thursday. “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.”
The officers who resigned are still employed by the Portland police department and could still be assigned to crowd control. There has been no indication that any of those officers will refuse duty. But the specially trained RRT is, for all intents and purposes, disbanded.
This is fine with nitwits on the Portland city council. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who has been agitating for the unit’s elimination, complained that the resignations deprived the city council of being able to humiliate the officers further.
“We should formally disband the RRT, but through council action,” Hardesty said in a statement Thursday. “The good old boy network is crumbling and we can either be a part of the change or part of the status quo—but the arc of justice is bending quickly and it’s imperative that the Portland City Council lands on the right side of history.”
Hardesty went on to describe the RRT members as “staging their own protest” through their resignations, which she said occurred “the moment there is a possibility for accountability for inappropriate and potentially illegal conduct.”
“When will PPB recognize this overwhelming desire for change and align their values with the people of Portland?” Hardesty said. “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.”
A “rogue paramilitary organization”? Here are some of the things that “rogue paramilitary organization” had to put up with the last year. They were listed in a letter to Portland Police Chief Charles Lovell and it was from the RRT commander Lt. Jacob Clark.
At the top of the list, Clark said nearly every team member had been injured during the protests last year.
“The injuries received ranged from multiple members with broken bones, torn ligaments and cartilage, traumatic brain injuries, hearing damage, damaged eye sight, lacerations, and burns,” he wrote.
He said members felt that bureau directives were being interpreted retroactively, leading to members being disciplined for policy changes that had not been in place when the officer acted during a protest.
While not mentioned specifically, denying the unit the ability to use tear gas made the job impossible to do.
The circumstances in which the team is asked to operate in are extremely hazardous and present serious officer safety concerns. The removal of effective tools through mayoral order or judicial decree have increased the hazards the team faces and has greatly decreased their safety. The removal of tools also forced team members to utilize more physical force to accomplish the missions dictated to them by Incident Command. Team members expressed this concern to Bureau command at the time, and were told Bureau command understood more physical force would be used. Additionally, reduced Bureau staffing, budget, and very little mutual aid support, has forced the team to interact with dangerous crowds without proper staffing levels which directly decreases their level of safety.
A sticking point was the indictment of one of their officers and the refusal of prosecutors to charge Antifa and BLM violent protesters.
The lack of leadership from the District Attorney‘s Office, pertains to charging decisions, and the lack of prosecution of individuals arrested for committing crimes during civil unrest including violent acts committed against the officers themselves. As well as statements from the District Attorney interpreted by demonstrators to mean they would not be charged for criminal acts they commit during demonstrations.
The Rapid Response Team was given an impossible mission to perform with no clear guidelines, no support from higher-ups, and a double standard when it came to charging violent offenders.
Wouldn’t you have resigned too?