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Federal agents in Portland last summer were undertrained and underequipped, report finds

The report concluded that DHS had the legal authority to deploy federal officers to protect federal facilities but lacked a comprehensive strategy.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Federal law enforcement officers lacked training, necessary equipment and consistent uniforms and tactics prior to their arrival in Portland last summer, according to a new report from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general. 

On June 4, 2020, DHS deployed federal officers from a number of agencies to protect federal facilities in Portland. The decision came after demonstrators broke windows and sprayed graffiti on federal property.

The report found that DHS had the legal authority to deploy federal officers to Portland but lacked a comprehensive strategy to execute their mission between the various DHS agencies involved.

Specifically, the report determined that not all officers completed required training or had the necessary equipment to perform their duties. Additionally, the report says federal officers used inconsistent uniforms, devices, and tactics when responding to events.

DHS also failed to address the potential for limited state and local law enforcement assistance, according to the report. 

On July 22, 2020 the Portland City Council voted to end Portland police cooperation with federal law enforcement.

Between June 4 and August 31, 2020, 755 federal officers were sent to Portland. Those officers came from a variety of special response teams and DHS agencies, including: The Federal Protective Service, U.S Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and United States Secret Service.

Prior to the mission, the Director of the Federal Protective Service required officers to receive a legal briefing on the relevant authorities and jurisdiction. But not all federal officers completed the legal training. 

The report found that on August 7, 2020, 36 of the 222 officers deployed did not appear on a training roster showing they had received the legal briefing. Of those 36 officers, 14 used less-lethal devices or munitions against a person while deployed in Portland.

The report also determined that not all officers were trained to respond to riots and conduct crowd control operations. Of the 63 officers reviewed, only seven received riot and crowd control training.

Federal agents sent to Portland did not wear consistent uniforms, according to the report. "Both citizens and Congress raised concerns regarding a lack of proper identification on officers' uniforms," the report reads.

The report also found DHS officers lacked the necessary equipment and had problems with radio communications between officers. Some officers did not have shin guards, face shields and protective eyewear during protests and riots in Portland.

Between June 13, 2020 and July 30, 2020, DHS officers reported 689 injuries including eye irritation, blurred vision, headaches, temporary hearing loss and wounds from projectiles. 

The report made two recommendations, urging the DHS secretary to establish a plan, policy and process to improve preparedness for future incidents of civil disturbance at federal facilities. Specifically, calling for a plan that would address training, equipment, tactics, and operational policies. 

The report also recommended that the Federal Protective Service develop plans with state and local law enforcement to respond to future civil disturbances at federal buildings. 

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