RRT officers gathered at a protest in downtown Portland in February 2020.
RRT officers gathered at a protest in downtown Portland in February 2020. Doug Brown

The members of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) unit assigned to respond to protests and other crowd control situations voted to resign from the unit en masse Wednesday evening, according to several City Hall staffers.

The mass resignation from the Rapid Response Team (RRT) comes a day after charges were filed against RRT officer Corey Budworth for hitting a woman with a baton during an August demonstration.

In a Thursday morning press release, PPB explained that the 50 members who comprised the RRT have not left their jobs at the police bureau.

"[The RRT's] members were sworn employees of the Portland Police who served on RRT in addition to their daily assignment in the Bureau," reads the press statement. "Despite no longer serving on RRT, they will continue in their regular assignments."

Update, 12 pm:

In a morning media call, PPB Deputy Chief Chris Davis said he believed the mass resignation wasn’t simply due to Budworth’s indictment.

“As I understand the situation, I think that really this is the culmination of a very long process,” said Davis. “I think this has very deep roots in some really just... unbelievable things that [RRT officers] have been subjected to over the last 14 months, particularly in the second half of 2020. I understand their perspective. If you put a human being through what they were put through, that takes a toll.”

Davis, who is currently serving as PPB’s acting chief while PPB Chief Chuck Lovell attends training out-of-state, said officers did mention Budworth’s criminal charges in their resignation letter. Davis said he supports Multnomah County District Attorney Schmidt’s commitment to holding people accountable—including PPB officers—for criminal activity.

“I would expect the DA to act in good faith to address any criminal issues that come up among our members,” Davis said.

Schmidt released a statement on the mass resignation shortly after the press conference concluded.

“I have confidence that the [Police] Bureau will continue their mission to maintain public safety," said Schmidt. "In the meantime, my office will continue to focus on the fair and just prosecution of criminal matters. We cannot expect the community to trust law enforcement if we hold ourselves to a lower standard.”

With the entire RRT unit effectively shuttered through the resignations, Davis said PPB is still prepared to respond to the kind of crowd control events the team historically focused on.

“If there is an event tonight, we will use on-duty patrol sources to respond,” said Davis. “We will make sure we have as close to adequate resources as we have.”

Davis said PPB management can still order former RRT members to respond to “lawful directions” regarding crowd control events, since they’re still police bureau employees. He’s also met with outside law enforcement agencies to ask for their support if needed during incidents that usually require an RRT response.

The police bureau will need to develop a short-term and long-term plan to make up for the loss of the RRT team, according to Davis. “We’ll have to find a way to adapt,” he said.

Asked if he had ever seen this kind of mass resignation during his career in law enforcement, Davis responded quickly: “No.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler echoed Davis in a statement sent after the press conference.

"Resigning members of the Rapid Response Team remain sworn members of the Portland Police Bureau," said Wheeler. "I want to acknowledge the toll this past year has taken on them and their families—they have worked long hours under difficult conditions. I personally heard from some of them today, and I appreciate their willingness to share their concerns about managing the many public gatherings that often were violent and destructive."

Wheeler, who serves as the city's police commissioner, said he's directed PPB to prepare mobile field forces to respond to any public safety needs, "including potential violence related to mass gatherings," and he's received confirmation from Governor Kate Brown that the Oregon State Police is on standby to assist PPB.

Original story, continued:

The news was first reported Thursday morning by KXL. According to the Oregonian, RRT members told PPB leadership that their decision to resign was based on the perceived lack of support from City Hall and the Multnomah County District Attorney's office over the course of the last year. Neither the mayor's office or the PPB have confirmed this reasoning to the Mercury.

Members of the RRT served as the police bureau's lead responders to the city's recent racial justice protests, which drew thousands of Portlanders into the street to protest police violence. Members of the RRT were often responsible for breaking up a crowd after PPB determined that a demonstration had turned into a riot, and often used force—from tear gas to less-lethal munitions—to do so.

On August 18, Officer Budworth allegedly struck photojournalist Teri Jacobs on the back and head with a police baton while attempting to disperse a protest group in Southeast Portland. Budworth was indicted on fourth-degree assault charges by a Multnomah County grand jury on Tuesday, making him the first PPB officer to face criminal charges for use of force during a demonstration.

The Portland Police Association (PPA), the police union that represents rank-and-file PPB officers, called the indictment "politically driven" in a Tuesday press release.

"Unfortunately, this decorated public servant has been caught in the crossfire of agenda-driven city leaders and a politicized criminal justice system," read the press statement.

PPA has long been critical of Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt's handling of racial justice protests, accusing him of acting too lenient towards protesters who damage property, start fires, or taunt police.

On Tuesday, Schmidt said that was there was "no legal justification" for Budworth's actions against Jacobs in August, warranting his indictment.

"[When] a police officer’s use of force is excessive and lacks a justification under the law, the integrity of our criminal justice system requires that we, as prosecutors, act as a mechanism for accountability," said Schmidt.

Budworth is not the only RRT officer under investigation for their actions during the 2020 protests. On Tuesday, Schmidt's office said that RRT Detective Erik Kammerer is currently being investigated by the Oregon Department of Justice for his actions against protesters in 2020. Schmidt told OPB Wednesday that his office is still investigating several other cases involving officer use of force during protests.