Portland police banned from using riot tool after lawsuit


Election 2020-America's Cities
A protester carries a U.S. flag upside down, a sign of distress, next to a burning building, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis during protests over the death of George Floyd. Julio Cortez/AP

Portland police banned from using riot tool after lawsuit

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Portland, Oregon, police have fewer tools to contain protests and riots after the city settled a lawsuit with activists over how officers handled the 2020 riots.

The Portland Police Bureau was forced this week to decommission its “rubber ball distraction devices,” which operate like flash grenades in stunning and disorienting a crowd, as a result of a lawsuit filed by activist group Don’t Shoot PDX in June 2020.

Five protesters had accused Portland police of seriously and wrongfully injuring them with the rubber pellets that spew from the now-banned distraction devices. The city agreed to pay each $50,000.


Rioters caused extensive damage to downtown Portland in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. While violence followed in cities across the country that summer, the riots in Portland stretched for more than three months.

The settlement leaves Portland police with fewer options for quelling unrest at a time when violence in the city is rising.

Portland hit an all-time record for homicides last month with its 93rd murder.

The Portland Police Bureau is also struggling to recruit and retain officers amid a national police shortage in major cities.

A study published this year found rampant low morale through the ranks of the Portland Police Bureau in large part because officers felt city officials did not support them through the turmoil of the past two years.

The police bureau recently began offering $25,000 hiring bonuses to experienced officers who join their team.

Portland police officers’ actions during the 2020 riots have come under fire from both sides of the ideological spectrum.


Some critics hammered the city’s law enforcement tactics at the time for allowing riots and destruction to continue without sufficient intervention.

Others criticized the force for cracking down on protesters too aggressively.

Last year, roughly 50 Portland officers involved in crowd control resigned to protest the indictment of a fellow officer who had allegedly used his baton on a protester in 2020.

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