The entire Portland police crowd control unit resigned from the assignment a day after a grand jury in Oregon indicted an officer for allegedly using unlawful force on a protester.
The Portland Police Bureau said that members of its Rapid Response Team (RRT) resigned as a group on Wednesday. Approximately 50 officers, detectives, and sergeants make up the team, Acting Police Chief Chris Davis said Thursday at a press briefing.
Members of the RRT, which is a voluntary assignment, receive advanced specialized training to respond to incidents such as public-order policing as well as man-made and natural disasters. Their primary role is to provide crowd control at events including protests.
All of the members who resigned from the team are still employed with Portland police and will continue with their regular assignments, the bureau said in a statement.
The mass resignation came one day after officer Corey Budworth was charged by a Multnomah County grand jury with one count of fourth-degree assault after he was accused of unlawfully causing physical injury to someone during a protest on Aug. 18, 2020, near the Multnomah Building.
"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," District Attorney Mike Schmidt said in a video statement.
Budworth, who was a member of the RRT, has been placed on administrative leave. His attorney could not be immediately reached on Friday.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said in a statement Tuesday that he could not "provide additional details" about the officer's indictment. The Portland Police Association slammed it as a "politically driven charging decision."
"Unfortunately, this decorated public servant has been caught in the crossfire of agenda-driven city leaders and a politicized criminal justice system," the union said in a Facebook post.
The association said that Budworth was trying to "restore order during a chaotic night of burning and destruction" when he was knocked to the ground while trying to clear demonstrators.
As an officer attempted to arrest one of the demonstrators, other protesters allegedly interfered, the union said. Budworth used his police-issued baton to "push" a demonstrator, causing the person to fall to the ground, the union said. Thinking the person was going to get back up "to re-engage", Budworth allegedly tried to push the person again with his baton but "accidentally struck" the person in the head, according to the union.
Police at the time declared the protest a riot, saying that traffic was blocked, the Multnomah Building was vandalized, and several fires were set. As police tried to disperse the crowd, they were struck with projectiles, the department said in a release.
Teri Jacobs identified herself as the demonstrator who was hit by Budworth's baton. She later filed a civil lawsuit saying that she was working as a photojournalist when the officer knocked her to the ground, according to The Associated Press. The city settled the suit earlier this year for $50,000.
Acting Chief Davis said that members of the RRT brought up Budworth's indictment among many other things when resigning.
"I think that really this is the culmination of a very long process and it's not just an indictment that caused this to happen," he said. "I think this really has very deep roots."
Davis went on to say that the RRT has experienced "unbelievable" challenges over the past 14 months and the team raised a lot of concerns that the bureau needs to address.
"I want to just acknowledge how challenging these times are, how challenging they have been ... since the beginning of the pandemic," he said. "Certainly all of just the national conversation and events in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the tremendous amount of stress that has been placed on our entire organization, certainly the members of RRT, as a result of some really difficult times that they went through."
The United States Attorney’s Office District of Oregon also addressed the resignations in a statement.
“Communities across the nation have endured many challenges over the past year as they attempt to address racial inequities in the wake of the murder of George Floyd,” Scott Erik Asphaug, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, and Kieran L. Ramsey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon said in a joint statement.
“In Portland, those challenges included large and sometimes violent demonstrations that strained our local resources and repeatedly placed officers in the difficult position of policing large and sometimes hostile crowds. As law enforcement officials, we recognize that community members and law enforcement officers alike are responsible for their conduct and that our judicial system is designed to address wrongdoing equally, whether by community members or law enforcement officers.”
Davis said the resignations will not interfere with police response to public order situations. He added that he has been in communication with other law enforcement agencies to make sure there is a plan in place to provide protection.