A retired Portland police officer pleaded guilty to felony assault and official misconduct Monday stemming from an incident that took place during a June 2020 protest.
Scott Groshong was working undercover in an unmarked van when he saw people break into a skateboard shop in Northwest Portland. Video shows Groshong driving a van toward a man leaving the store and knocking that man to the ground, injuring him. Groshong failed to report the incident to a supervisor or note the use of force in his report.
The man who was struck ran off and was later arrested. His case was referred to the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office and is still under investigation.
Groshong, a 27-year police bureau veteran who retired soon after the investigation was opened, was initially charged with nine felony and misdemeanor crimes. The Salem Police Department and Marion County District Attorney’s Office investigated the incident to avoid any conflict of interest in Multnomah County.
Groshong was sentenced to three years probation and 80 hours of community service. His state law enforcement certification will be revoked.
Despite the U.S. Department of Justice slamming the Portland police for failing to properly document and investigate the more than 6,000 uses of force tallied during the 2020 protests, Groshong is one of only two officers to be charged for protest-related incidents.
Corey Budworth is the other officer facing criminal charges. He faces a fourth-degree assault charge over allegations he had no legal justification when he hit a photographer in the head with a baton. Those charges prompted the entire Rapid Response Team to resign, leaving the city without a dedicated team to handle crowd control.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office considered criminal charges against Officer Thomas Clark after a video surfaced showing Clark running ahead of a line of riot police and tackling a protest medic to the ground from behind. The video appears to show the medic on his back and Clark on top of him with one hand near the medic’s neck. The medic said he raised his arms to protect himself and in doing so, knocked Clark’s helmet off. At the same time, the video shows the officer punching the medic in the face.
A police officer runs ahead of his line, tackles a protester, and starts punching them on the ground pic.twitter.com/gpwmMjwuWC— Sergio Olmos (@MrOlmos) September 1, 2020
In declining to charge Clark, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said he didn’t think prosecutors could prove in court that Clark’s actions were criminal.
To avoid a conflict of interest, Schmidt asked the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate Detective Erik Kammerer, known by protesters as Officer 67 and for being particularly violent. In February, the department announced it had found “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Detective Kammerer committed a criminal act.”
In total, Schmidt has reviewed 21 allegations of excessive use of force and theft by police during the 2020 racial justice protests and declined charges in 12 of them. Only Groshong and Budworth have faced charges.
State law authorizes an officer to use only the amount of force they believe is necessary to make an arrest, prevent an escape from custody, or to prevent physical injury. Those laws overwhelmingly rely on an individual officer’s assessment of the situation unfolding in front of them. The law requires prosecutors to prove that the officer’s decisions were not reasonable given what they knew at the time, a high bar, according to prosecutors.
“The law is on a police officer’s side in doing their job, they can use force,” Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt told OPB in a September interview.
Groshong is the first officer to be convicted for use of force during 2020 protests. Budworth’s case is still open.