It’s rare to see a public apology from a police officer, but nearly three years after using a baton to strike a photojournalist in the head, Corey Budworth, an officer with the Portland Police Bureau, did just that.
In a recorded video released Tuesday, July 11, Budworth read a statement apologizing to Teri Jacobs for his use of force during a 2020 racial justice protest in Portland.
“I acknowledge the physical and emotional harm my actions caused, and am committed to ensure that I do not cause this kind of harm, moving forward,” Budworth said, noting the force used against Jacobs “could have been avoided.”
Budworth’s public apology was part of a restorative justice process stemming from a misdemeanor charge against him for fourth-degree assault. Restorative justice focuses on the impacts of harm done to victims of a crime, and aims to repair harm through mediation and accountability from the person responsible.
At the time of the incident, Officer Budworth was serving on PPB’s Rapid Response Team (RRT), a special unit assembled to respond to public disorder and protests. Budworth’s indictment was also rare. He was the first police officer to face charges for excessive use of force during protests, shocking the public and the Portland Police Bureau. After he was indicted by a grand jury, all members of the Rapid Response Team quit, in protest.
What unfolded that night
Budworth’s interaction with Jacobs happened on Aug. 18, 2020, a night described as “chaotic” in court documents. Portland had already seen several nights of protests in the wake of high profile police killings of Black Americans.
A riot was declared near the county's Multnomah Building on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, after protesters threw Molotov cocktails at the building and set a dumpster on fire. A group of about 15 RRT officers formed a police line, ordering people to clear the area, court records indicate. Several protesters didn’t disperse. Police reported protesters hurled rocks and water bottles at them and at some point, a person broke through the line of officers and attacked Budworth, knocking him to the ground.
Budworth got up and was reportedly pepper sprayed in the face by accident, as police fired a 40 mm less lethal launcher around the same time. As police tried to arrest a protester, he alleged Jacobs, who was documenting police interaction with protesters, was among a group who tried to pull the detained person away.
Video footage from that night depicts Budworth knocking Jacobs down with his baton, then using it to strike her in the face, as she tries to get up from the ground.
Videos were collected from several sources, including social media feeds of protesters who witnessed the events, but attorneys for Budworth had the social media videos removed from evidence, arguing they couldn’t be proven authentic or unaltered.
The court dismissed the case against Budworth last Friday, July 7, citing the restorative justice process that had taken place.
Budworth said the time spent with Jacobs gave him an opportunity “to reflect on what the events and time period meant to police, to protesters and the city at large.”
“I understand the harm that was caused was not limited to Ms. Jacobs and was felt by others in the community when there was a great distrust of law enforcement,” Budworth added.
Jacobs filed a separate civil lawsuit against Budworth and the Portland Police Bureau over the incident. The city eventually settled that suit for $50,000.
In a statement, Jacobs said she’s “grateful for the opportunity to tell [Budworth] directly how his actions have affected me and continue to affect me through the restorative justice process.”
“Although it can’t change what happened to me that night, he admitted that his actions were wrong and pledged to do better himself, as well as facilitate changes in the PPB that would help prevent this type of police brutality from happening in the future,” Jacobs stated.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, whose office initially moved to charge Budworth, said Portland has yet to fully heal from the trauma of 2020 and the social justice protests.
“This case represents a turning point. This resolution, through a restorative justice process, is a brave example of what healing can and should look like, and is reflective of the type of healing that is not always achievable solely through a traditional criminal justice response,” Schmidt said in a statement released by the D.A.’s Office. “If a police officer and a protester can come together in dialogue, understanding, and healing, I believe our city can as well.”
Jacobs was assisted by the Oregon Justice Resource Center.
Juan Chavez, OJRC’s civil rights project director, said he hopes to see the same process used in future cases involving police and the public.
“We are hopeful that the [restorative justice] process is utilized in other ways beyond just between a single police officer and single victim,” Chavez told the Mercury. “Tens of thousands of people went into the streets in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and were met with rampant police violence from the Portland Police Bureau. Those crimes against the public have gone unaddressed. While it’s unclear how one apology can heal a community after that, I’ll take a start when I get one.”