PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Officers who serve on a specialized crowd control unit in Portland, Oregon, who have responded to the city’s ongoing, often violent protests have resigned en masse after criminal charges were filed against a team member.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the officers on the Rapid Response Team voted to resign from the team during a meeting Wednesday night.
The move by officers and sergeants to disband their own team came a day after a team member, Officer Cody Budworth, was indicted, accused of fourth-degree assault stemming from a baton strike against a protester last summer. A year ago, about 70 members were on the team.
The resignations were first reported by radio station KXL. A team lieutenant called Police Chief Chuck Lovell to inform him the members of the team, who serve voluntarily in the assignments, voted to resign due to perceived lack of support from City Hall and from the district attorney over the past year, according to the mayor’s office and officers.
The team has been on the front lines at social justice protests held in the city after the May 25 murder of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and pinned him to the pavement.
Many demonstrations devolved into clashes with officers late at night, and at times ended with vandalism, property damage and fires. The crowd control team was the unit often directed to disperse crowds after police declared unlawful assemblies or riots.
This morning the Portland Police Bureau released a statement: "On June 16, 2021, Portland Police Bureau employees serving as members of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) left their voluntary positions and no longer comprise a team. Its members were sworn employees of the Portland Police who served on RRT in addition to their daily assignment in the Bureau. Despite no longer serving on RRT, they will continue in their regular assignments. There were approximately 50 employees serving as RRT members."
Their use of force has led to multiple civil lawsuits in state and federal court, sanctions from a judge and now an indictment.
In late October, the president of the police union, the Portland Police Association, sent the mayor and police chief a letter, urging both to “stand up and publicly support Police Bureau members who voluntarily serve on the Rapid Response Team (RRT).”
“Our RRT members do not volunteer to have Molotov cocktails, fireworks, explosives, rocks, bottles, urine, feces and other dangerous objects thrown at them,” wrote Daryl Turner, then-president of the union. He noted that the team members volunteer for the work without any specialty pay.
Budworth marked the first Rapid Response Team officer to face criminal prosecution stemming from force used during a protest. The police union has called the prosecution politically driven, and said Budworth’s baton “push” to a woman’s head was accidental.
Also this week, authorities said a Portland Police Bureau detective is under review by the Oregon Department of Justice for possible criminal charges related to use of force at last year’s racial justice protests.