More than 1,000 demonstrators swarmed Portland’s streets June 1, 2020, to protest institutional racism and violence by police against people of color. An outside investigation found police used force and made arrests only when protester began violent. Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald

An independent investigation of the Portland Police Department’s response to a downtown protest last summer has found that officers acted appropriately under “great duress,” according to the city manager.

The investigation, conducted by CliftonLarsonAllen of Minneapolis, found that officers used arrests “sparingly” and only “agitators were targeted in an effort to maintain order and disperse the crowd.” Force, the report found, was used “only after the individuals at the demonstrations turned violent” and “no overly aggressive physical barriers were used for crowd containment.”

The protest, which started June 1 and spilled over into June 2, stemmed from the Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd’s death. It began with hundreds of people peacefully demonstrating in the streets of Portland, but grew to 1,000 and ended with police deploying riot gear and using pepper spray to control the crowd when, police said, demonstrators began throwing bottles, bricks and rocks at officers. Close to two dozen people were arrested, mostly for failure to disperse, but those charges were later dropped. More than 30 businesses were vandalized.

The majority of those who attended the protest exercised their rights to assemble and protest in a peaceful way, investigators found. Those interviewed did not have complaints about their ability to express their views and “agreed that the incidents of violence were committed by individuals not associated with the peaceful protests. Complaints were about police tactics to control those violent behaviors, not control of protesting behaviors,” according to the report.

“The report confirms the men and women of our police department performed their responsibilities under great duress in a professional and admirable way,” City Manager Jon Jennings said. “I am very proud that the Portland Police Department long ago embraced being progressive in its approach to working with the community and has been a leader in utilizing modern programs and best practices.”

The investigation, which the city paid $40,000 for, used personal interviews; video footage from body, dash and street cameras; as well as police department documents, reports, dispatch logs, use of force reviews, media coverage and social media postings of the protests.

“I hope the results of this process and final report will only bolster our community’s trust and confidence in the Portland Police Department,” Chief Frank Clark said. “As noted last year, these officers have my full faith and support, and I was extremely proud of the way our staff faced some trying and unprecedented circumstances and violence with discipline, restraint and professionalism. I remain honored to be part of such a professional and progressive organization. We’ll continue to seek out best practices, hold ourselves accountable and do our jobs with overarching integrity as we strive to protect the public and each other.”

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