The Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Vancouver Police Department have spent more than $150,000 sending their officers into Portland during ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd and police brutality.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Brent Waddell said deputies are assisting the Portland Police Bureau through a mutual-aid agreement. Waddell said the purpose of sending deputies south was to supplement exhausted Portland police officers.
Thursday marked a month since the death of Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes. His death and the deaths of other Black people during encounters with police have sparked nationwide protests calling for law enforcement reform.
Portland has seen daily protests. Crowds have been gathering nightly outside the Multnomah County Justice Center, sometimes coming to blows with police. Marches also draw a large number of demonstrators throughout the city every night. Protests have happened sporadically in Clark County, but none have prompted aggressive police responses.
Newly appointed Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell released a statement Tuesday describing the protests as “an awesome statement of unity for transformational change. These rallies and marches have been non-violent and impactful, and we appreciate those who have engaged in the safe expression of rights to assemble and express free speech.”
“Unfortunately, there has been another group of several hundreds who have also gathered at a different location, but many of the group members have not engaged in lawful or constitutionally protected activities,” Lovell continued. “It began when the Justice Center was targeted and sustained severe damage during a break-in and arson on May 29. Windows have continued to be shattered, and officers have identified and arrested those responsible when they were able to.”
Clark County’s law enforcement officers are among Portland police during those responses.
Waddell said the Portland Police Bureau reached out to the sheriff’s office for help, and the Clark County manager made the official request to send deputies over. The first time deputies did so was the weekend of June 5, he said.
Protests on the night of June 15 saw police declaring a civil disturbance in the area of Southwest Naito Parkway to Broadway Boulevard and Southwest Lincoln to Harvey Milk streets. The crowd was reportedly told to leave but stayed there and threw glass bottles at officers, who responded by firing “crowd control munitions,” Portland police said in a news release.
During the clash, a Clark County deputy was struck in the head with a rock from behind and had to be taken to the hospital. Waddell said the deputy is doing well, but it will be some time before they’re back on the job.
The sheriff’s office’s units, including patrol, are not being affected by sending deputies to Portland, according to Waddell. The scenario is requiring some overtime and rearranging of shifts, he said.
The most recent payroll numbers were unavailable, but the officer’s finance manager estimated that between $52,000 and $56,000 has been spent on providing aid for five nights to Portland police.
Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said personnel payroll cost for assisting Portland police through June 15 was $97,915. That amounts to about 1,000 hours of paid time, but she said other units have not been affected by the deployments.
Vancouver police first responded to the Portland protests on May 31, Kapp said. The officers have been sent over “based on formal requests from them under the mutual aid agreement, on multiple dates but not every night,” she said.
The number of Vancouver police officers present during the protests has varied from 10 to a dozen some nights, and five to six officers other nights, depending on the needs of Portland police, Kapp said.
Washougal police officers went over once on May 30, the night after the arson at the Justice Center, detective Kate Tierney said. Fifteen officers, including Chief Wendi Steinbronn, traveled to Portland but did not engage in crowd management, Tierney said.
“We stood in front of the Justice Center and provided security so that Portland could free up more resources to send out to patrol,” Tierney said.
The use of outside agencies in Portland has raised questions about how the officers not working for the city are identified, and how their presence may complicate filing complaints about police conduct.
If Portland’s oversight office — the Independent Police Review — discovers that an officer who is the subject of a complaint does not work at the Portland Police Bureau, the city of Portland has no authority to hold anyone responsible, The Oregonian reported Thursday. Instead, the filing is closed and sent to the outside officer’s agency.
Officers from different departments wear similar protective gear that may obstruct identifying characteristics. Independent Police Review Director Ross Caldwell told The Oregonian that the office has access to personnel records and video footage that typically allows them to identify the officers involved, but that can be time-consuming.
Vancouver police wear their uniforms and helmets “as needed,” Kapp said. They also use a black truck, she said, which does not have any Vancouver Police Department insignia but bears Washington license plates.
Officers deploy with 40 mm “less-lethal impact” and tear gas rounds, Kapp said. They have not used any of them, she said.
Waddell said Clark County deputies wear standard “mobile response” equipment, shin guards, bullet proof vests and helmets with face shields. They wear jackets or shirts that have the sheriff’s office’s patch— a green patch on the left shoulder with three figures in a canoe. The sergeant said he believes the patches are visible, even in the heavier gear.
The sheriff’s office has also used two Ford F-350 pickups shared as regional assets that have rails welded on the sides so officers can ride along outside the moving vehicle and are equipped with public address systems.
Clark County deputies have not used less-lethal weapons such as tear gas or rubber bullets during their visits to Portland.