The Oregon State Police's deployment to the city of Portland to protect government buildings downtown begins Thursday, assisting in what Gov. Kate Brown hopes will be the withdrawal of federal police and other agents who are widely viewed as escalating the unrest downtown.
The timing of the OSP involvement was laid out in an email by the agency's Superintendent Travis Hampton, which was shared with the Tribune an hour after it was sent to his staff.
Hampton's email shows a focus on a "relatively small number of individuals that conceal their intentions within lawful protests" and indicates the need for OSP involvement has reached "a moral threshold" requiring their involvement. "Simply put, our law enforcement partners and the community needs OSP's assistance — which we will provide."
He assures his officers that they "will have the appropriate means to do their jobs and stay as safe as possible — but all eyes of the nation will be on us, particularly when we supplant federal officers at the courthouse in an effort to bring down the protest temperature."
Here is the text of the all-staff email. It was sent Wednesday, July 29, at 8:35 a.m., and addressed to "Team:"
"We are all concerned with the violence exhibited by a relatively small number of individuals, that conceal their intentions within lawful protests — within and outside Oregon. These have been difficult waters to navigate and I am very reluctant to expose our MRT and SWAT troops to these events with the current climate. There are nights, however, the daily resource request reaches a moral threshold to assist our law enforcement partners and I will dispatch our resources. This not only comes at personal risk to the troopers responding to the protests, but their shift buddies they leave behind.
"The situation in Portland is dire, with nightly legitimate protests that devolve into violence as groups splinter from peaceful demonstrators to attack law enforcement and property. The Federal Courthouse in Portland is the location of nightly exchanges between protestors and federal law enforcement. No matter if you love Portland area or consider it an area to avoid, the region holds a large percentage of our population and serves as the state's economic engine. Simply put, our law enforcement partners and the community needs OSP's assistance — which we will provide.
"Beginning this Thursday, OSP special operation teams and some uniformed troopers will enter into a two week rotation within Portland to assist our federal partners and the Portland Police Bureau. We will serve fixed locations at the Federal Courthouse and at mobile locations within the city. I've personally had conversations with City of Portland leadership, our federal partners, and of course our Governor — who collectively offer their appreciation and support for OSP's involvement.
"I'm sending this note out agency-wide and not just to our special operation units to underscore a couple points. First, that I don't send our troops into these situations without thoughtful consideration and ensuring they have the appropriate support when things don't go as planned. They will have the appropriate means to do their jobs and stay as safe as possible — but all eyes of the nation will be on us, particularly when we supplant federal officers at the courthouse in an effort to bring down the protest temperature. It is not a stage we wished to be on, but we will do our part for Oregon. We'll do our best.
"Second and equally important, that I appreciate the difficult times we are in and that this brings another layer of stress to OSP members and their families. I don't know how many messages ago I indicated this, but I wrote it will get worse before it gets better. I thought we'd be in the "better" territory by now, but the chips keep falling where they are. Tough times, but we are a tough agency and we'll continue to be there for our communities when they need us the most — serving with distinction since 1931.
"This message is going out concurrently with a media release from the Governor's Office and White House."
Oregon State Police
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