Watchdog: Feds lacked training during Portland protests
Federal agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deployed to Portland last summer during the height of last summer's racial justice protests had incomplete training, were missing equipment and had inconsistent use of force policies, according to a new watchdog report.
The DHS inspector general's report, which was completed earlier this month, found that while the federal agency had the authority to deploy officers to protect federal facilities — in this case, the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse — the agency failed to consistently and properly train federal agents who were deployed.
The Trump administration first deployed DHS agents to Portland on June 4, days after protests and riots started in Portland and across the nation following the police killing of George Floyd, according to the watchdog report. By June 26, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order that led to the creation of "Operation Diligent Valor," which was intended "to prevent, protect, respond to and recover from attacks on Federal property" at a time when federal property across the nation was a protest target.
"Deploying officers who are not properly trained increases the risk of officers acting outside of their authority," the report said, adding that officers who used force in Portland without the proper training "presented an even greater risk of liability to DHS."
In survey responses and interviews with the agents who were deployed, the inspector general's report found some agents "questioned their involvement in the operation due to a lack of riot and crowd control training."
According to the report, of the 755 federal law enforcement officers assigned to the Portland protests, most were from Border Patrol, followed by the Federal Protective Service's Rapid Protection Force and federal protection officers with 179 officers. Furthermore, there were 85 ICE agents, 82 agents with Homeland Security's special response team and 70 agents with Custom and Border Patrol's special response team. There were two Secret Service agents assigned from the Portland Resident Office, according to the report; however, the Secret Service agents had limited investigative roles and weren't involved with responding to the protests as they were happening, the report said.
The report also found that not all DHS officers had the necessary equipment to respond to protests and riots, such as shields or protective eyewear, or used consistent uniforms, devices or tactics in Portland.
Furthermore, DHS and Federal Protective Service did not have "a written plan, policy, or process to ensure a coordinated, multi-component response to civil disturbance at Federal facilities," according to the watchdog report.
Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general of DHS, was expected to testify before the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee on April 21.
Federal law enforcement activities in Portland came to an end by the close of July 2020, when Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and then-Vice President Mike Pence reached a resolution to have Oregon State Police take a role in policing the protests. However, that deal came under scrutiny when state police reacted to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt's decision to not prosecute all protest-related arrests.
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