Portland’s City Council is looking to keep closer tabs on the quantity and type of weapons used by the Portland Police Bureau following a summer of protests and widespread use of munitions by the city’s police force.
Three members of the council will introduce a resolution next Wednesday that would put in place new reporting rules for the Portland Police Bureau, requiring them to turn over regular inventories of its stockpile of crowd control weapons to council and get authorization from council members before purchasing certain weapons, such as as flash-bangs and riot shields.
The resolution is co-sponsored by Commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Jo Ann Hardesty and notably Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner. The mayor received widespread criticism over the summer for his handling of racial justice protests as many Portlanders held him responsible for the force on display by the city’s police.
In September, after months of racial justice demonstrations, the mayor banned the police from using CS gas, a widely used form of tear gas. Jim Middaugh, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, framed the resolution as the latest effort by the mayor to curtail the bureau’s use of force.
“The mayor continues to work toward reducing the use of force whenever possible and toward improving transparency and accountability around use of force, including munitions.”
Invoices show police have spent tens of thousands of dollars on munitions during months of protests. But, as the resolution notes, there’s been no full accounting of what type or quantity of weapons officers used - or what remains in the PPB stockpile.
“Portlanders have not been provided with an accounting of the scope and scale of PPB’s use of chemical, impact, and other munitions, nor an inventory of the quantity of such weapons currently in PPB’s inventory,” the resolution states.
If passed, the resolution would give the council more insight into the scope of the bureau’s stockpile of crown control weapons. It would require the bureau to provide the council with inventory reports listing the quantity, purpose, ingredients, manufacturer and the expiration date. The bureau would be required to hand over the first report on January 27. From then on, these inventories would need to be given to council on a quarterly basis.
The police would also be required to get any purchases of “military-style equipment” authorized by council through a quarterly report to council, a part of the resolution advocated for by the mayor’s office. The council defines this equipment as “as designated by President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13688.”
“The report should also include an explanation of the need for the equipment including the appropriate law enforcement purpose it will serve, and list the policies, protocols, and trainings that are in place governing the appropriate use of the equipment,” the resolution states.
Weapons used by SERT, the city’s version of a SWAT team, would need to be authorized only by the police commissioner as opposed to the entire council. If the police bureau was looking to buy military-grade weaponry outside of the quarterly schedule, the bureau would also need to get permission from the police commissioner.
Lastly, if any police officers deployed munitions on three or more days in the course of a week -- which would likely happen during sustained protests -- the bureau would be required to keep an inventory of munitions used on each day of the demonstration. They would also need to let the council know if they planned to buy more within five business days.
The resolution states that the police chief - or a person designated by the chief’s office - would be responsible for complying with the reporting requirements.