Aug 11, 2023 - News

Report on 2020 Portland protests urges police to reduce use of tear gas

Two people wearing gas masks in a cloud of tear gas during clashes with police.

Protesters clash with police in Portland in December 2020. Photo: John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A new outside assessment of policing during 2020 protests and riots in Portland made a dozen recommendations, seeking to ensure heavy reliance on tear gas and rubber bullets "never happens again."

Why it matters: Police actions during the six months of demonstrations in Portland in 2020 physically harmed peaceful protesters and uninvolved city residents, investigators found, and created an "ongoing legitimacy crisis" for the Portland Police Bureau, the report said.

The big picture: Per the report, made public Thursday and first reported by The Oregonian, many Portlanders still "feel alienated from and furious with PPB" for forcefully dispersing crowds perceived as peaceful, while officers "felt judged and castigated" by the community.

  • Officers also felt let down by elected officials who "did not sufficiently and publicly distinguish" between peaceful and violent protesters, the report found.

Police tell Axios that they'll be doing a self-assessment over the next six months, as the report recommends.

Context: This report is part of ongoing federal oversight of Portland police due to a 2014 settlement over excessive use of force.

Details: Recommended policing changes, all of which Portland has agreed to, include:

  • "Dramatically reduce" police reliance on rubber bullets and crowd-control gas, and increase video surveillance during protests and plainclothes officers instead.
  • Create an advanced team that specializes in keeping public order, with 96 hours of annual training in areas including de-escalation and avoiding force.

Of note: Members of Portland's previous such team all resigned in June 2021 after one member — who later issued a public apology — was charged with criminal assault for striking a peaceful protester with a baton.

What's next: The city council will discuss the report Aug. 23, with an evening community forum the same day.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Portland.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Portland stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Portland.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more