Portland Sheriff Cites Tear Gas Ban for Standing Down on Policing Protests: ‘No Sound Tactical Options’

Portland police officers push protesters past a dumpster fire during a dispersal from in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in the early morning on August 21, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. For the second night in a row city police and federal officers clashed with protesters …
Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese is refusing to police an expected clash on Saturday between Antifa and the Proud Boys during planned rallies, citing that the ban on using tear gas leaves officers “with no sound tactical options” for controlling crowds.

In an email to Deputy Chief Chris Davis of the Portland Police Bureau, Reese said the two groups “have a history of violent interactions” and without tear gas they would not be able “to quickly disperse a large crowd engaged in dangerous acts of violence.”

“If officers have to use high levels of physical force to protect the safety of the participants, it may lead to substantial injuries and may not be effective in achieving the desired outcome,” Reese said.

KPTV reported on the development on the same day that yet another violent riot was declared in Portland:

The far-right group Proud Boys have a rally planned for noon at Delta Park, even though the city denied a permit for the gathering based on COVID-19 health guidelines. Anti-fascist counter protesters are planning a separate rally at Peninsula Park, about three miles away.

Earlier this month, Mayor Ted Wheeler ordered the Portland Police Bureau to stop using tear gas for crowd control, as Portland was in the midst of more than 100 straight days of protests that often turned into riots.

Reese did offer the support of the Mobile Booking Team to assist in processing people arrested, while also assisting with patrol duties in east Portland, which will free up additional Portland police officers for crowd control at the rallies.

“Unfortunately, given the directions your team is working under, our Rapid Response Team is not available,” Reese said.

Oregon State Police (OSP) also expressed “serious reservations” about coming to the aid of the Portland Police Bureau, citing the tear gas ban.

“If the decision (to) amend the CS gas prohibition is revisited, we are willing to discuss resource allocation,” OSP wrote in a separate email to Portland police. “OSP has used CS gas judiciously, although it is a tool we must have available for community safety, officer safety and best policing practices.”

“Police Chief Chuck Lovell said in a press release Tuesday that the bureau was working with the mayor’s office and other partnering agencies in their response plans,” KPT reported.

Meanwhile, rioting continued, according to the ABC affiliate KATU:

Portland police say they made multiple arrests, as a gathering in downtown Portland on Wednesday night was declared a riot.

Many gathered in downtown Portland, over the decision not to charge Kentucky police officers in the death of Breonna Taylor.

Some members of the group attempted to break into the front doors of the Central Precinct lobby, police said. Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said windows were broken at the building and he said officers are reporting Molotov cocktails thrown at police.

Police said three officers were injured by projectiles lobbed at them by protesters and multiple arrests were made.

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