Portland responds to 'offensive' police training slide
The city of Portland responded to the U.S. Department of Justice's request for police training materials after an offensive slide was found in a powerpoint for Rapid Response Team training.
Attorneys with the justice department sent a letter to the Portland police chief and the City Attorney's Office on January 18, requesting the original, unredacted records of the city's police training materials after the slide was discovered.
According to justice department attorneys Jonas Geissler and Jared Hager, the department was initially notified of the inappropriate slide on January 13, shortly before it was released to local media outlets.
The slide in question included a picture depicting someone wearing body armor and a helmet, who appears to be a police officer, physically confronting a protester. The text on the slide contains profanity and refers to the protester as a "dirty hippy" while making reference to using bats and pepper spray to injure them.
The slide was at the end of a PowerPoint presentation on the history of Portland protests meant for the Portland Police Bureau's now-dissolved Rapid Response Team which managed protests.
The city said the slide did not appear in presentations from 2016, 2017 or 2019.
"Some PPB and City employees knew or should have known about these materials for years," the justice department letter said. "The City Attorney's Office has reportedly known about them since at least September 2021."
Additionally, the letter said the training materials should have been reported to the justice department after they were developed.
The city of Portland responded to the letter on Tuesday, and said they sent the department the training materials on Monday and additional material on Tuesday, Jan. 25. The city claimed they were planning on giving the justice department the training materials as part of its "annual document request" by January 31, 2022.
The city added they didn't give the justice department the training material previously because an internal investigation was ongoing.
"…We felt it was important to be able to provide as much factual evidence as possible when we shared the presentation, in particular regarding the origin of the final slide, whether it was ever presented at any trainings, and who may have been in attendance at any such trainings. Those factors strongly informed our belief that the information should be kept confidential until we had additional information and context to provide DOJ, the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison ("COCL"), and community stakeholders," the city explained.
The city also claimed that the presentation was under a protective order in the lawsuit Don't Shoot Portland et al. v. City of Portland et al. under the U.S. District Court, District of Oregon.
"However, as soon as the City learned that the plaintiffs in the matter intended to disclose the materials in connection with the filing of a forthcoming motion, we immediately notified DOJ, providing materials to DOJ with as much context as possible given the IA [internal affairs] investigation is still ongoing," the city said in the letter.
However, City Attorney Robert Taylor expressed that the city should have sent the training material to the justice department sooner.
"In retrospect, I agree that we should have provided material to DOJ sooner when they came to our attention in September instead of relying on the response to DOJ's annual comprehensive document request. I take responsibility and apologize for not doing that," Taylor said.
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