A slide show designed to train officers in Portland, Oregon on methods of policing protests concluded with a message celebrating the use of violence against protesters, suggesting they would eventually be “sewn and bandaged,” according to records released by the city on Friday.
The image was included at the end of a 110-slide training session, apparently from 2018, which detailed the types of protests officers might encounter, as well as analyzes of crowd behaviors and police tactics that could be used to maintain order. The final slide was of a meme that mocked protesters as filthy hippies, celebrating that officers could “baptize your heads with hickory and anoint your faces with pepper spray.”
It included an image of what appeared to be a police officer in riot gear punching a protester.
The office of Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as police commissioner, released the document on Friday, saying it surfaced in a lawsuit related to the racial justice protests that ate the city in 2020. Mr. Wheeler said he was “disgusted” by the slide which mocked protesters and that an investigation had begun.
“The Portland Police Department must reject the harmful and confrontational attitude expressed in this slide,” he said.
Chuck Lovell, who became police chief in 2020, said the presentation’s message was “not representative of the Portland Police Department, and it’s disappointing for all of us who work so hard to earn trust from the community”.
The police office documented it used force more than 6,000 times during the protests, prompting a rebuke from federal officials who deemed the city non-compliant with a previous settlement agreement.
Mr Wheeler’s office said that while the document appears to have been created in 2018, it is still unclear when the slide was added to the training material and who made it. His office said it was unsure whether it was used during training.
The police bureau has a long-standing, adversarial relationship with protesters in Portland, and those tensions escalated during the racial justice protests that followed the 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
When some people in the crowd broke windows or started fires, police often responded by covering the streets with tear gas and throwing protesters to the ground. The city has faced a series of tear gas lawsuits as well as individual cases of excessive force, including a recent $100,000 settlement with a protester who said officers tried to take his sign before spraying it in the face and throwing it to the ground.
Understanding the protests in Portland
A year of protests. The protests that swept the country following the death of George Floyd in 2020 lasted much of the year in Portland, Oregon. What began as a call for police accountability and racial justice turned into a complex mobilization, at times punctuated by unrest and destruction.
Teressa Raiford, executive director of activist organization Don’t Shoot Portland, said the training materials didn’t surprise her, but she was glad they were now available to everyone. She said the assaults depicted in the meme were the type of things protesters in Portland have witnessed for years.
“I saw it. I felt it. I experienced it,” Ms Raiford said.
Ms Raiford said she wants the Justice Department to investigate the Portland Police Bureau for its tactics, bias and connections between officers and white nationalist organizations. Federal agents played their own part during the protests, violently confronting protesters outside the downtown US courthouse; FBI agents were then deployed to monitor crowds in the months that followed.
Portland’s slideshow includes various strategies and weapons for containing protests, including an “increased force” model in which officers confront protesters. The presentation also details a “negotiated management” model, which details how officers can be friendly, maintaining open communications with protest organizers while keeping riot squads out of sight. The slideshow notes that the negotiated model “does not work with anarchists or radical groups who refuse to negotiate with the police.”
In 2021, after nearly a year of unrest following the murder of Mr Floyd, which included regular protests that led to smashed windows of everything from cafes to the Boys & Girls Club, the city continued a crackdown energetic.
Mr Wheeler said at the time he wanted to ‘unmask’ those protesters who had engaged in repeated acts of vandalism or arson, saying it was time to ‘do them some harm’.