Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Bans Police use of Tear Gas, Police Respond

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as police commissioner, has released a video saying he has ordered police officers to stop using tear gas for crowd control.

WATCH:

The Portland Police Bureau has now responded with the following statement:

Since May 29, 2020, Portland Police and partner agencies have been subjected to repeated violence by a group of motivated and well-organized individuals. These individuals have stated they intend to kill or injure officers and destroy occupied buildings and dwellings. Threats to commit acts of violence have been scrawled on police facilities and other property. Crowds have chanted slogans about burning down buildings on their way to attempt to do that.

Rioters lit County offices on fire in a building which houses hundreds of inmates and public employees, as well as the Portland Police Central Precinct. Rioters barricaded doors shut at North Precinct and East Precinct and attempted to light the building on fire with employees and civilians inside. Officers have been attacked with rocks, glass bottles, frozen water bottles, lasers capable of causing permanent eye damage, ball bearings and sharp objects launched from slingshots, paint balloons (to render their face shields useless) as well as fire bombs, large fireworks, and other items.

Police officers have not been the only ones whose safety has been threatened during civil unrest in the city. Numerous community members have been assaulted, one person has been murdered, firearms have been discharged, and neighborhoods such as Kenton have been endangered by fires set in the streets and at the Portland Police Association office. Neighbors have been threatened and intimidated by people engaged in the nightly violence. Businesses have suffered losses from arson, vandalism and mass theft.

CS gas is a tool which has been used sparingly in the last 104 nights. We want to clear up a misconception that it is being used as crowd control. It is not. It is being used to disperse crowds only when there is a life safety event. Most recently, it was used to disperse a crowd from which a Molotov cocktail was thrown at officers and ended up injuring a community member who was on fire. We understand that this gas seeped into nearby homes and that is not something we desire. However, the community should be asking the rioters why they are committing violence that threatens the very lives of others nearby. When people gather lawfully, peacefully, there is no need for intervention by police, much less the use of CS gas. That is evident from several nights, even within the last 104 days, when people gathered and police had no need to interact to prevent crime or restore order. In fact, that happens all the time in Portland.

There are those who suggest police do not even respond to these crowd events. Many times, we do try not to. In the past, crowds have come to our precincts, vandalized cars, gates, security cameras, etc. and police do not confront the crowd. When this occurs, the crowd escalates and does something such as light a building on fire so police will have to engage them.

Banning the lawful use of CS will make it very difficult to address this kind of violence without resorting to much higher levels of physical force, with a correspondingly elevated risk of serious injury to members of the public and officers. CS, while effective, is a significantly lower level of force than impact weapons, which would very likely be necessary to disperse riotous groups with its prohibition. We do not want to use gas. We do not want to use any force.