Serving on the Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team was literally a thankless job, according to the head of the police union.
Daryl Turner, executive director of the Portland Police Association, issued a fiery statement blaming “political venom” for Wednesday’s mass resignation of the 50-member squad, accusing elected officials of stoking protest unrest and crushing morale by vilifying the officers.
“They put themselves in harm’s way to restore order and peace when destruction and mayhem struck,” said Mr. Turner in a Friday statement. “Rather than acknowledging and thanking those officers, rather than prioritizing public safety and peace, politicians criticized the RRT, further fueling the fires in our City.”
Not only that, he said, but “local politicians celebrated the destruction of our City as if looting, arson, property damage, physical violence, and even murder were permissible and lawful First Amendment activities.”
The decision by the Portland officers effectively to disband the RRT, a voluntary, specialized assignment, came a day after Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced that an officer had been charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault for hitting a protester with a baton during an August riot.
Mr. Schmidt, whose office dropped 80% of the 1,018 criminal civil-unrest cases filed in the last year, thanked officers “who have showed up night after night in response to civil demonstrations that have at times turned violent.”
“Despite these pressures, these law enforcement professionals remained professional, and their actions lawful,” he said in a Tuesday statement. “But when that line is crossed, and a police officer’s use of force is excessive and lacks a justification under the law, the integrity of our criminal justice system requires that we, as prosecutors, act as a mechanism for accountability. Public trust requires nothing less.”
The Oregon Department of Justice is also investigating a use-of-force allegation against a police detective, according to local news outlets.
Mr. Turner said that officers have been subjected to “warrantless criticism and false allegations by elected officials,” in addition to “baseless complaints and lengthy investigations devoid of due process.”
“Until now, they have continued to come to work every day, exhausted and injured,” Mr. Turner said. “The only glue holding the team together was their commitment, dedication, and integrity to serve their communities. But that glue dissolved when political venom demonized these public servants for doing exactly what they were tasked to do—restore peace and order in our City.”
Portland was besieged last year by 120 nights of consecutive protests, which sometimes devolved into riots, the most of any U.S. city, after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd in police custody.
Mr. Turner offered a disturbing view of the situation for officers on the ground.
“[O]ur Rapid Response Team members did not volunteer to have Molotov cocktails, fireworks, explosives, rocks, bottles, urine, feces, and other dangerous objects thrown at them. Nor did they volunteer to have threats of rape, murder, and assault on their families hurled at them,” he said.
In addition, he said, “They did not volunteer to suffer serious injuries, to be subject to warrantless criticism and false allegations by elected officials, or to suffer through baseless complaints and lengthy investigations devoid of due process.”
Mr. Schmidt’s office rejected 891 of the 1,108 criminal civil-unrest cases referred to his office from May 29, 2020, to June 11, 2021, according to KATU-TV.
Elected in May 2020, Mr. Schmidt announced in August that he would not prosecute what he described as low-level offenses, including interfering with a police officer, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, escape and harassment, unless there are extenuating circumstances.