A slideshow designed to train officers in Portland on methods of policing protests concluded with a message that celebrated the use of violence against demonstrators, suggesting they would end up “stitched and bandaged,” according to records released by the city Friday.
The image was included at the end of a 110-slide training session, apparently from 2018, that detailed the types of protests that officers might encounter, along with analyses of crowd behaviors and police tactics that could be used to maintain order. The concluding slide was of a meme that mocked protesters as dirty hippies, celebrating that officers could “christen your heads with hickory, and anoint your faces with pepper spray.”
It included an image of what appeared to be a police officer in riot gear hitting a protester.
The office of Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as police commissioner, released the document Friday, saying it had surfaced as part of a lawsuit related to the racial justice protests that consumed the city in 2020. Wheeler said that he was “disgusted” by the slide that mocked protesters and that an investigation had begun.
“The Portland Police Bureau must reject the harmful and divisive attitude expressed in that slide,” he said.
Chuck Lovell, who became the police chief in 2020, said the message in the presentation was “not representative of the Portland Police Bureau, and it is disappointing to all of us who work so hard to earn the community’s trust.”
The Police Bureau documented that it used force more than 6,000 times during the protests, which drew a rebuke from federal officials who deemed the city out of compliance with a previous settlement agreement.
Wheeler’s office said that while the document appeared to be created in 2018, it remained unclear when the slide was added to the training materials and who did so. His office said it was unsure whether it was used during training.
The Police Bureau has long had a confrontational relationship with protesters in Portland, and those tensions escalated during the racial justice demonstrations that followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020.
When some people in the crowd smashed windows or lit fires, police often responded by blanketing streets in tear gas and knocking protesters to the ground. The city has faced a series of lawsuits over the use of tear gas as well as individual instances of excessive force, including a recent $100,000 settlement with a protester who said officers tried to take his sign before spraying him in the face and throwing him to the ground.
Teressa Raiford, executive director of the activist organization Don’t Shoot Portland, said that the training materials did not surprise her but that she was glad they were now available for everyone to see. She said the assaults described in the meme were the types of things protesters in Portland have witnessed for years.
“I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. I’ve experienced it,” Raiford said.
Raiford said she wanted the Justice Department to investigate the Portland Police Bureau for its tactics, for bias and for links between officers and white nationalist organizations. Federal agents played their own role during the protests, violently confronting demonstrators in front of the U.S. courthouse downtown; FBI agents were then deployed to surveil the crowds in the months that followed.
The Portland slideshow includes various strategies and weapons for containing protests, including an “escalated force” model in which officers are confrontational with demonstrators. The presentation also details a “negotiated management” model, which details how officers can be friendly, maintaining open communications with protest organizers while staging riot teams out of sight. The slideshow notes that the negotiated model “does not work with anarchists or radical groups who refuse to negotiate with police.”
In 2021, after nearly a year of unrest in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, which included regular demonstrations that led to smashed windows of everything from coffee shops to a Boys & Girls Club, the city pursued a forceful crackdown.
Wheeler said at the time that he wanted to “unmask” those demonstrators who had engaged in repeated acts of vandalism or arson, saying it was time to “hurt them a little bit.”