Portland Police’s Use of Less-Lethal Launchers at Protests Restricted

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday restricted the Portland police use of less-lethal launchers by its Rapid Response Team officers at protests.

The restriction will be in effect until the city can assure the court that additional training has been offered and that each officer “can recognize and articulate a threat without speculating and before using less-lethal force,” The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez also ordered the Police Bureau to investigate allegations of misconduct by Officer Brent Taylor stemming from his firing of munitions during a June 30 protest. The judge ordered him removed from policing crowd management pending the inquiry’s outcome.

The city reported in January that it had removed Taylor from policing protests or crowd control events while the city’s Independent Police Review office and internal affairs investigates.

Hernandez issued the sanctions in a written ruling.

They follow the judge’s November finding that the officers had acted in contempt of his June 26 order banning police from firing FN303s and 40mm less-lethal launchers and pepper spraying people engaged in passive resistance.

A lawsuit filed by Don’t Shoot Portland, a Black-led nonprofit that advocates for social and racial justice, prompted the rulings. The nonprofit’s lawyers had sought stronger sanctions, including a ban on impact munitions and for the Police Bureau to permanently remove from protest duty any officers who violate the court order.

Hernandez issued what he called “coercive,” versus punitive sanctions against the city, “to obtain compliance with the Court’s order,” his ruling said.

The judge had ruled that police violated his court order three times on June 30 as officers declared an unlawful assembly and attempted to push protesters to the east after they marched to the police union office in North Portland.

The judge identified three instances where police fired the FN303 less-lethal launcher at people who weren’t actively aggressive.

The judge also ordered no use of pepper spray against people engaged in passive resistance and urged police to minimize the exposure of pepper spray to bystanders.

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