Damned if we do. Damned if we don’t.

Portland police officers rely on Bureau policies and training when taking police action. Many of these policies are mandated by the United States Department of Justice, with the aim of reducing police use of force in Portland. Unfortunately, these policies are jeopardizing public safety by confusing officers and putting them in untenable situations. Our officers don’t hesitate to run towards the danger; they hesitate to use force because they are concerned about the repercussions of doing their job.

Recently, we saw this happen in an incident where a young police officer waited for his cover officer before engaging a suspect who was fighting with a victim. This officer was following Police Bureau policy: wait for a cover officer because additional officers will help de-escalate the situation so that force may not need to be used.

This incident serves as an example that although force may need to be used to protect the public, our officers are concerned about using force due to confusing and counterintuitive policies and repercussions that put de-escalation before public safety. Prior to these confusing policies, we were criticized for using too much force. Now, after these confusing policies, we are being criticized for not using enough force. So, which is it?

Common sense Police Bureau policy should ensure that Portland police officers are given reasonable discretion and support to follow their instincts to protect the public and the policies should reflect the public safety priorities of our whole community.