The Portland Police Bureau criticized Mayor Ted Wheeler (D), who serves as the city's police commissioner, after he announced officers will no longer be able to use tear gas to stop the nightly riots that have been occurring for over 100 days.
"Effective immediately and until further notice, I'm directing the Portland Police Bureau to end the use of CS gas for crowd control...During the last 100 days Portland, Multnomah County, and State Police have all riled CS gas where there's a threat to life safety. We need something different and we need it now," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said he expects the police to arrest those who are participating in criminal acts and the district attorney to prosecute those who are arrested.
"I'm acting, it's time for others to join me," Wheeler said, adding the violence the riots bring must be put to an end.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as police commissioner, has released a video saying he has ordered police officers to stop using tear gas for crowd control. pic.twitter.com/UM8xVAyD1x— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) September 10, 2020
In a statement released after Wheeler's announcement, the Portland Police Bureau said since late May, "Portland Police and partner agencies have been subjected to repeated violence by a group of motivated and well-organized individuals. These individuals have stated they intend to kill or injure officers and destroy occupied buildings and dwellings. Threats to commit acts of violence have been scrawled on police facilities and other property. Crowds have chanted slogans about burning down buildings on their way to attempt to do that."
The PPB pointed to how rioters have set fires to multiple buildings around the city in an attempt to burn them down. The PPB said CS gas is used to disperse crowds in order to prevent loss of life:
"CS gas is a tool which has been used sparingly in the last 104 nights. We want to clear up a misconception that it is being used as crowd control. It is not. It is being used to disperse crowds only when there is a life safety event. Most recently, it was used to disperse a crowd from which a Molotov cocktail was thrown at officers and ended up injuring a community member who was on fire. We understand that this gas seeped into nearby homes and that is not something we desire. However, the community should be asking the rioters why they are committing violence that threatens the very lives of others nearby. When people gather lawfully, peacefully, there is no need for intervention by police, much less the use of CS gas. That is evident from several nights, even within the last 104 days, when people gathered and police had no need to interact to prevent crime or restore order. In fact, that happens all the time in Portland."
"Banning the lawful use of CS will make it very difficult to address this kind of violence without resorting to much higher levels of physical force, with a correspondingly elevated risk of serious injury to members of the public and officers," the PPB continued. "CS, while effective, is a significantly lower level of force than impact weapons, which would very likely be necessary to disperse riotous groups with its prohibition. We do not want to use gas. We do not want to use any force."
The PPB warned not being able to use CS gas will make it harder to arrest rioters as making arrests "in the middle of a crowd intent on destruction and injuring people, it takes considerable resources--large numbers of officers that we do not have. Not only do we not have enough PPB officers to respond in this manner, our area partners have stated they will not come to our aid, given the climate in Portland."