Lawsuit Settlement: Portland PD can no longer use crowd control distraction devices

Lawsuit Settlement: Portland PD can no longer use crowd control distraction devices

By Maxine Bernstein

PORTLAND, Ore. — The city of Portland will pay $250,000 to settle a federal lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Don’t Shoot Portland that challenged the force used by Portland police against protesters in 2020.

The city also agreed not to use “flash bang” rubber bullet distraction devices for crowd control and to dispose of its remaining inventory, according to the settlement filed in court Tuesday.

Portland Police declared a riot on Tuesday, June 30, as protesters gathered outside the Portland Police Union headquarters on North Lombard Street.

Portland Police declared a riot on Tuesday, June 30, as protesters gathered outside the Portland Police Union headquarters on North Lombard Street. (Photo/Dave Killen of via TNS)

Police must also abide by a 14-month injunction that essentially forces officers to follow bureau policy and state law that limits their use of tear gas, less-lethal ammunition, pepper spray, and long-lasting acoustic devices. desk scope for crowd control.

U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez will have the power to enforce the injunction for one year and two months. He previously found the city contemptuous for allowing police to use less lethal rounds against people who passively resisted officers, against office policy.

The $250,000 payout will be split among five named plaintiffs: Nicholas J. Roberts, Michelle ‘Misha’ Belden, Alexandra Johnson, Lester Wrecksie and Thomas Dreier, with a penny set aside for Don’t Shoot Portland, a nonprofit organization black-led nonprofit that advocates for social and racial justice in the city. Both Roberts and Belden were caught in tear gas during protests in downtown Portland, according to the nonprofit’s lawsuit.

The settlement comes more than two years after Don’t Shoot Portland filed a lawsuit against the city amid overnight protests over the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a police officer. of Minneapolis who knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. The discovery of the ongoing trial is what gave rise to a derogatory police training slide on crowd control, which sparked an internal investigation that remains unsolved.

“This is a victory for anti-fascist organizers and activists around the world,” Teressa Raiford, founder and executive director of Don’t Shoot Portland, said in a statement. “Our freedom of expression is the foundation of how we enable social change. We are grateful to everyone – all of our supporters and individual donors – who made it possible to bring this lawsuit. Black lives still matter. Stay on the street.

[RELATED: Environmental groups sue over Portland tear gas use]

In June 2020, Hernandez banned police from using tear gas to disperse crowds “where there is little or no risk of injury.” He limited its use to situations where “the life or safety of the public or the police is at risk”.

In November 2020, the judge found that Portland police violated their order restricting the use of less-lethal impact ammunition – FN303 and 40mm launchers and pepper spray – after officers ruled an unlawful gathering on June 30 and attempted to push protesters east as they marched towards the police union building in North Portland.

In March 2021, the judge banned officers working in the bureau’s Rapid Response Team from using crowd control launchers during protests until they receive further training. Hernandez ordered additional training for officers so they can “recognize and articulate a threat without speculation and before using less lethal force.”

The judge had identified three uses of less-lethal launchers that violated his order: Constable Brent Taylor fired five rounds from his FN303 launcher at the legs of a person refusing to drop a “Abolish the police” banner with a PVC frame ; Taylor’s deployment of 10 rounds of the same type of launcher against two people trying to drag a person on roller skates away from the police and back into the crowd; and the firing by an unidentified officer of a less lethal launcher at a person attempting to pick up an unidentified object from the ground.

[RELATED: Cops resign en masse from Portland’s crowd control unit after fellow officer indicted]

The city has hired an outside consultant to conduct a broader policy review on police use of force and the bureau’s response to protests in 2020 – one of the steps the US Department of Justice has demanded the city is taking to address police mismanagement of force during protests. , inadequate training and poor supervision by superiors.

While the injunction in the settlement requires the police department to essentially follow its own policy restrictions and abide by state law, the court’s 14-month oversight will allow Don’t Shoot Portland plaintiffs to return to court. judge to ask for sanctions. against the city if a violation is found, according to J. Ashlee Albies, one of the attorneys representing the nonprofit.

“We will be vigilantly monitoring” the police office over the next 14 months, Albies said.

Earlier this month, city attorneys urged the court to dismiss most of the suit’s claims, arguing they were largely moot since nighttime protests had ceased and changes to the law of the city state had forced the police bureau to change its responses to major protests.

The city cited a new state law, which Governor Kate Brown signed on March 23. It prohibits police from using any portable incapacitating or impact chemical projectile for crowd control management. State law also prohibits the use of tear gas except to defend against the threat of death or serious injury, and requires police to reduce any accidental impact of any force used on bystanders or other targets. involuntary.

The city also wrote in its Nov. 8 filing that the police office had discontinued the use of rubber bullet distraction devices and was now disposing of its remaining inventory.

“In order to adapt to changes in Oregon law, PPB has adjusted how it responds to protests. Instead of trying to manage and respond to a large group of protesters, PPB has changed tactics to focus specifically on identifying and dealing with individuals at protests who are involved in crimes,” the prosecutor wrote. Deputy Principal of the City, Naomi Sheffield, in court.

Members of the police bureau’s Rapid Response Team also voted to resign en masse from the specialist crowd control team in June 2021, a day after a team member was charged with a charge of fourth degree assault.

NEXT: Judge restricts Portland PD’s use of less lethal pitchers at protests pending more training

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