Officers from Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team voted to resign after the indictment of Officer Corey Budworth on fourth degree assault charges for his actions during a protest last year.
The specialized crowd control department of 50 officers and sergeants cited frustration at a perceived lack of support from City Hall and the district attorney over the last year of protests, where the team was often on the front lines of late-night clashes with rioters.
Officer Budworth’s indictment on assault charges for a baton strike during a protest last year came after several civil lawsuits in state and federal courts over the team’s use of force. The team has also been on the receiving end of sanctions from a federal judge and later the mayor that banned their use of less-lethal crowd control launchers and tear gas. Moreover, the team has reportedly been frustrated at the DA’s refusal to prosecute protest-related arrests.
It appears as if Budworth’s indictment was the last straw according to an Oregon Live report.
PPB Chief Chuck Lovell was informed of the unprecedented decision by a lieutenant on the team.
“Have I ever seen anything like this in my career? No, I don’t think any of us have,” Deputy Chief Chris Davis told Oregon Live.
The officers who resigned from their volunteer duties on the team remain sworn members of the bureau.
The morning after the decision, Mayor and Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler met with Lovell and Davis on a video conference where he invited Rapid Response Team members to discuss their concerns with him.
A few hours later, 40 members of the team were on the call. When Wheeler suggested keeping the team intact for another week while they figure out a replacement, team members were apparently seen shaking their heads.
The mayor summarized the meeting in a statement.
“I want to acknowledge the toll this past year has taken on them and their families—they have worked long hours under difficult conditions,” Wheeler said. “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.”
In the meantime, the mayor discussed with Gov. Kate Brown about the possibility of bringing in the Oregon National Guard. Brown also affirmed the Oregon State Police will have its mobile response team on standby in case of protests.
Deputy Davis assured the community that an “incident management team” and other mobile response units will be on standby should unrest occur.
“We’re committed to providing the community the best service that we can. And this does not mean that there will be no response in public order situations. We’ll use the resources that we have,” Davis said.
The team has been in the political crossfire for the last year. In early October, the president of the Portland Police Association sent a letter to the mayor and police chief urging them to “stand up and publicly support Police Bureau members who voluntarily serve on the Rapid Response Team (RRT).”
The union president also demanded that the mayor and City Hall “stop using RRT members as political pawns.” He also described the team’s members as “exhausted and injured,” and that the “only glue holding their team together’’ was their “commitment to serve their city.”