At the height of last summer's criminal, social, and racial justice protests, Portland, Oregon stood as one of the most intense epicenters of both activist rage and violent law enforcement responses in the country. Now, nearly one year later, a Portland police officer has been indicted for "unlawfully, knowingly and recklessly causing physical injury" to a photographer during the protests. According to The Oregonian newspaper, it marks the first time a member of the Portland Police Bureau has faced prosecution for striking a photographer during the protests.
The day after the indictment was announced, that officer's specialized police unit disbanded en masse.
In a statement released this week, the PPB announced that the approximately 50 officers "serving as members of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) left their voluntary positions and no longer comprise a team." The Bureau notes that the officers will continue their regular assignments as police.
The mass resignation of the city's self-described "all-hazard incident response team" comes ten months after Officer Corey Budworth was filmed hitting independent photographer Teri Jacobs in the back of the head with his baton during a protest on August 18. In footage first posted to Twitter, Budworth is seen striking Jacobs again in the face, while she sits dazed on the ground.
Later that fall, the an attorney serving as Portland's compliance officer to assess the city's federal settlement with the Department of Justice specifically highlighted the incident, chastising the Bureau for not initiating a deadly force review of the footage.
Jacobs, who was wearing her press credentials when she was struck, later won a $50,000 settlement from the city for the attack.
At this time it's largely unclear what Portland will do to respond to the mass resignation of its Rapid Response Team. However, the groups disbanding over a single officer's indictment is particularly ironic, given that it had proudly proclaimed that (emphasis mine):
The primary role has been to provide public safety at crowd events when there was a threat of harm to the community. All Rapid Response Team members are trained in advanced skills related to crowd management and crowd control including crowd psychology and behavior, team formations and movements, the use of enhanced personal protective equipment, use of force, de-escalation and arrests.
Even more ironic is the fact that the indictment that prompted the mass resignation is for, per The Oregonian, "fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor."