February 12, 2021 — Through a contract with the City of Portland, the National Police Foundation (NPF), recently published the results from a review that examined the responses of Portland police to mass demonstrations and counter demonstrations that occurred in Portland, Oregon, on June 4, 2017, August 4, 2018, and August 17, 2019. The official report, “Preparing for and Responding to Mass Demonstrations and Counter Demonstrations in Portland, Oregon,” drew on a comprehensive analysis of materials, video, interviews, on the ground observation, and extensive NPF subject matter expertise and experience conducting reviews of other agency responses to mass demonstrations. This analysis was focused on PPB policies, training, procedures, and practices at the time of the events and their immediate aftermath and is intended to provide objective feedback to the City and the PPB as they work to improve and to learn from experiences.
The key findings and recommendations centered on planning, preparation, deployment, training, and equipment; incident command; policies, protocols, and strategies; public communication and messaging; and, the after action review (AAR) process. The findings were based on four major themes:
- Citywide planning and support for unified responses to mass demonstrations assist in strengthening the overall public safety response, making the response more collaborative, resourced, measured, and effective.
- Continued prioritization of planning, preparation, management, and training for mass demonstration responses is important to strengthen the effectiveness of police responses to demonstrations.
- Clear, consistent communication with demonstrators and other community members is key to facilitate public safety and build trust.
- Fostering a culture of learning enables organizations to learn from promising practices and lessons learned to continually improve the organization.
The City selected NPF to conduct an independent assessment of the Portland Police Bureau’s response to mass demonstrations and First Amendment Assemblies after Mayor Ted Wheeler called for an independent investigation reviewing PPB’s actions leading up to and during demonstrations involving alt-right and anti-fascist protestors. NPF, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization with no membership interests was tasked with a review that would contribute to learning and encourage continual evaluation, improvement and evolution of the Bureau’s mass demonstration responses as opposed to assigning blame. The NPF assessment team, in fact, intentionally and by design, veered from issues under active investigation or litigation so as to not interfere with those important processes.
The specific goals of the assessment are as follows:
- To independently assess PPB’s response to demonstrations on June 4, 2017 and August 4, 2018 and other relevant incidents from a variety of perspectives that include PPB personnel, community groups and members, and other stakeholders.
- Conduct analysis of where improvements can be made in PPB policy, planning, practice, training, tactics, staffing, and resources.
- Identify ways to strengthen communication and relationship building with community members and demonstrators.
The City chose the NPF for a variety of reasons including its many years of experience conducting similar reviews and the experience of its review team. NPF maintains an expansive library of similar reviews that can be found and accessed by the public at www.incidentreviews.org.
It is important to note that all data collection, writing, and development of recommendations in the report occurred prior to the death of George Floyd. As these incidents continue to evolve, NPF encourages communities and police departments to work together to bring peace, to listen to each other and to learn from responses that enable free expression while keeping life and property safe.
Media inquiries should be directed to James Middaugh, Director of Communications, Office of Mayor Ted Wheeler at Jim.Middaugh@portlandoregon.gov.