The outside firm the City of Portland hired to conduct an independent investigation related to the Portland Police Department’s response to a protest in June 2020 has completed its work and submitted a final report. The City hired CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA) in February 2021. The focus of the investigation, as required by a majority of the City Council, was to ensure if the integrity of the Police Department was maintained throughout its response to the protest, which began the evening of June 1, 2020 and concluded early in the morning of June 2, 2020.
“I’d like to thank CLA for thoroughly and independently investigating the events of June 1st into June 2, 2020. As was demonstrated last year in a workshop with the City Council, the report confirms the men and women of our police department performed their responsibilities under great duress in a professional and admirable way,” said City Manager Jon Jennings. “I am very proud that the Portland Police Department long-ago embraced being progressive in its approach to working with the community, and has been a leader in utilizing modern programs and best practices.”
CLA’s investigation consisted of interviews of protest attendees, receipt and review of Portland Police Department body and dash cam footage, street camera footage, Portland Police Department documents and reports, including after-action reports, incident report summaries, burglary and criminal mischief reports, individual arrest reports, assisting agency reports, dispatch logs, protest timelines, use of force reviews, as well as media coverage and social media postings of the protests.
CLA’s report concluded that by any measure, the protests in Portland were “an incident of first impression and presented an extraordinary policing challenge for the Portland Police Department.”
The report concluded that “[e]ven under the best of circumstances with advance scheduling and coordination, policing protests can be difficult, and the event of June 1 largely formed organically and somewhat spontaneously and was organized primarily through social media and other more informal communications. The protest generally did not involve the planning, permits, or other process that would have included advanced coordination with the Portland Police. The protests as a whole were largely peaceful, but there were numerous incidents of violence toward police officers, property damage, and looting/destruction of businesses. The protest was disorganized and had no central leadership.”
CLA’s report found the majority of protesters exercised their rights to assemble, associate, and speak in a peaceful way. Evidence, such as available video, media reports, and witness interviews confirmed the mostly peaceful nature of the protests. However, that same evidence showed that individuals seemingly unaffiliated with the protests used the opportunity to engage in aggressive and violent behavior.
This “second tier of demonstration” was in direct conflict with the peaceful protestors. The complaints from those peaceful protestors centered around police tactics that they believed were targeted at them; however, CLA’s review showed that police actions were focused specifically at those individuals that were exhibiting aggressive, violent, and criminal behavior.
CLA’s investigation showed that the Portland Police Department’s response strategy to the protest was one of facilitation; and that its response differed greatly, in a positive manner, from the response other departments around the country had to similar protests. CLA’s review of police responses from other cities frequently showed a response strategy involving disorder control tactics and methods. Disorder control tends to rely on the use of mass arrests and shows of force and has a result of controlling, regulating, or quashing First Amendment expression. Whereas a facilitation strategy works to allow First Amendment expression to the greatest extent possible consistent with public safety. This method has shown to reduce conflict and violence, benefiting overall public safety, officer safety, and police-community relations.
CLA’s review and report highlights that arrests were used sparingly and no mass arrests occurred; force was used only after the individuals at the demonstration turned violent and the event was nearing its fourth hour; no overly aggressive physical barriers were used for crowd containment; and those interviewed did not have complaints of not being able to express their views.
The report also highlighted the fact that the Police Department dedicated an extensive amount of work in its after action reviews so it could fully understand the events and responses of the protests as well as a comprehensive and reflective review of its own actions and response. All responding agencies and officers submitted reports to Portland Police. These reports allowed the Department to summarize its observations and lessons learned as well as to implement and update policies related to crowd management, training, use of emergency operations command center, traffic management, documentation of mutual aid and incident reports, and more.
Finally, the CLA report noted that no complaints were received in regard to the actions of Portland Police officers during these protests. Internal Affairs additionally reviewed the actions of officers and did not discover any actions that would suggest misconduct or the need for initiation of an administrative investigation. It also stressed the importance of pre-planning and communication with the protest organizers; and noted that the number of procedural, policy, and training enhancements the Police Department has instituted in preparation for any future protests will only work to enhance public confidence.
“I hope the results of this process and final report will only bolster our community’s trust and confidence in the Portland Police Department,” said Chief Frank Clark. “As noted last year, these officers have my full faith and support, and I was extremely proud of the way our staff faced some trying and unprecedented circumstances and violence with discipline, restraint and professionalism. I remain honored to be part of such a professional and progressive organization. We’ll continue to seek out best practices, hold ourselves accountable, and do our jobs with overarching integrity, as we strive to protect the public and each other.”