Nearly 50 officers with the Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team resigned together on Wednesday after one of their fellow “riot squad” members was criminally indicted on a fourth-degree assault charge for using his baton against a demonstrator during a violent riot last August.
On Thursday, the Portland Police Bureau confirmed the riot squad officers “no longer comprise a team,” but will remain in their regular assignments
A lieutenant on the volunteer team notified Chief Chuck Lovell of the mass exodus on Wednesday night, the Oregonian reported, citing a lack of support from city officials and from the district attorney after managing over 100 consecutive nights of riots in Portland last summer.
“Have I ever seen anything like this in my career? No, I don’t think any of us have,” said Deputy Chief Chris Davis, who is serving as acting chief while Lovell is out of state for training.
Multnomah District Attorney Mike Schmidt charged Officer Corey Budworth on Tuesday with fourth-degree assault for allegedly using unnecessary force against a protester during a riot on August 18, 2020. During that riot, demonstrators threw a Molotov cocktail at a government building, setting it ablaze.
“In this case, we allege that no legal justification existed for Officer Budworth’s deployment of force, and that the deployment of force was legally excessive under the circumstances,” Schmidt said. “My office will continue to do everything we can to ensure justice is done without error or delay and that we make sure our work and practices are rooted in fairness and equity.”
Daryl Turner, police union director, called the indictment a “witch hunt” during an appearance on the “Lars Larson Show.”
“It is important to remember that our officer has not been found guilty of any crime. Like every citizen, our officer is innocent until proven guilty,” the union said in a Facebook post. “He faced a violent and chaotic, rapidly evolving situation” involving “a group of 200 demonstrators, many equipped with tactical helmets, faces covered, and armed with a variety of weapons.”
The Rapid Response Team is described as an “all-hazard incident response team that has received advanced specialized training to respond to incidents requiring higher levels of technical expertise including public order policing, natural or man-made disasters” whose primary job has been to facilitate public safety during events when large crowds present a “threat of harm to the community.”
Without a riot team, it is unclear how the city plans to manage demonstrations scheduled for this coming weekend.
“Now that the riot team is no more, we have no clue what’s going to happen. We don’t have enough patrol officers to be pulled from the road to handle huge crowds,” a Portland police officer told the Post Millennial. “We are only backups with no gear like the riot team has.”