Members of the Portland Police Bureau's Rapid Response Team resigned en masse from their voluntary positions on Wednesday in response to a fellow "riot squad" officer being criminally indicted for an action he took during a violent uprising in the city last August.
According to reports from the Post Millennial and local radio station KXL-FM, the Rapid Response team voted unanimously to disband during a meeting with the Portland police union. The cohort consisted of about 50 officers, and included detectives and sergeants.
Team members, which have been deployed to respond to recurrent uprisings that have taken place in the city since last summer, were reportedly disaffected by a lack of support from City Hall and from the district attorney.
On Wednesday, police union director Daryl Turner told the "Lars Larson Show" he feared the final straw for officers would be what he called the "witch hunt" prosecution of Officer Corey Budworth.
Budworth, accused of using unnecessary force against photojournalist and provocateur, Teri Jacobs, during a declared riot on Aug. 18, had initially been cleared after an internal investigation by the police department. On that night, the team was deployed to contain an uprising after protesters threw a Molotov cocktail into a county building, setting it on fire.
But on Tuesday, Multnomah District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced a criminal indictment against Budworth, charging him with fourth-degree assault.
"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 in a statement. "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."
PPB officer charged over incident during August 2020 riot www.youtube.com
In response, the police union fired back, calling the indictment a "politically driven charging decision."
"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 news release. "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 union added that Budworth "used the lowest level of baton force — a push; not a strike or a jab — to remove Ms. Jacobs from the area."
In a news release, the Portland Police Bureau described the team 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."
"The primary role has been to provide public safety at crowd events when there was a threat of harm to the community," the bureau added.
Now with the entire rapid response team disbanded, it is not clear how the city will manage demonstrations planned for the 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."