Federal agents sent to Portland to defend courthouse lacked training, equipment or consistent use of force policies, report says


The US Department of Homeland Security had the authority to send federal agents to Portland to protect the federal courthouse, but not all agents had received the required training, had the necessary equipment, or used uniforms, coherent ammunition or tactics, a final report of the inspector general of the ministry said.

Internal security did not have a comprehensive strategy, according to the report released on Wednesday. Not all officers have been trained to respond to riots or crowd control. Some federal agents have even questioned their own involvement in the Portland operation because of their lack of training, the inspector general found.

Radio communication between federal agents from different agencies was poor, and different federal agents had inconsistent annual certification training for their use of less lethal weapons.

“Without the necessary policies, training and equipment, DHS will continue to face challenges in securing federal facilities during times of civil unrest that could result in injury, death and liability,” the report said.

The findings reflect many of the allegations made in multiple lawsuits against Homeland Security after former President Donald Trump sent federal agents to reinforce Federal Protective Service workers at the downtown courthouse last summer .

The area around the courthouse had become a frequent gathering place for thousands of people protesting police violence and racial injustice after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Some protesters targeted the building for vandalism in a clash that escalated after people tried to barricade the entrance doors on July 3 and smashed it.

Between June 4 and August 31, the government sent 755 federal agents to Portland at various times from the Federal Protective Service, US Customs and Border Protection, US Immigration and Customs, and Secret Service, according to the report.

The estimated cost of federal action in Portland called Operation Diligent Valor as of Aug.31 was $ 12.3 million, according to the report. The damage to the American Mark O. Hatfield courthouse in Portland was approximately $ 1.6 million.

The controversial federal fortifications eventually rekindled protests that had faded. Mass clashes, clouds of tear gas and injuries to protesters continued every night for weeks. Among the most high-profile confrontations that drew attention, federal agents shot a peaceful protester on July 11, fracturing the man’s skull and shattering his facial bones, and used a baton to beat and smash. the hand of a Navy veteran standing outside the courthouse. They were also accused of having kicked some people off the streets in unmarked vans for questioning.

The Inspector General’s office examined one day, Aug. 7, and found that out of 222 officers deployed to Portland, 36 were not on a training list showing that they had received legal information about their authority or criminal laws they could enforce on the federal government. goods.

Fourteen of those 36 officers used less lethal ammunition against people in Portland, increasing the department’s accountability, according to the report.

“Deploying officers who are not properly trained increases the risk of officers acting outside their authority,” the report said.

According to the Inspector General’s office, in a review of 63 officers, only seven had received training in riot or crowd control. During interviews and survey responses, many officers indicated that they needed more such training.

Under the use of force policies governing the ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Protective Service, officers are required to complete an initial certification for each less lethal device used.

Federal agents in Portland used air launchers, 40mm ammunition launchers and pepperball launchers for crowd control, according to the report.

While all 63 agents the bureau examined had obtained their initial certifications for these less lethal devices, annual recertification requirements varied among federal agencies.

There was no consistent standard for annual recertification and each federal agency had different policies on the use of their less lethal weapons, the Inspector General’s office found.

For example, while the Federal Protective Service and Customs and Border Protection require annual recertification for the use of FN303 launchers and pepperball throwing weapons, the ICE does not require renewed recertification for its less lethal weapons used by its special response to homeland security investigations. Execution and suppression teams or operations, depending on the report.

“Having a coherent, less lethal DHS training policy can ensure a more effective approach” in future operations, the Inspector General’s office recommended.

There were also inconsistencies in policies between federal agencies on how to use their less lethal weapons.

For example, the ICE classifies the use of the 40mm launcher as deadly force when firing at someone, while customs and border protection ask officers not to aim for the head or neck. of somebody.

Some officers questioned the force used by officers from other units, “for example, when to engage rioters with force,” the report said.

Additionally, neither Homeland Security nor the Federal Protective Service had a written plan, policy, or process to coordinate their responses to civil unrest at federal buildings in Portland.

The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security assigned different responsibilities to each federal unit, but no one developed a written strategy to ensure that officers were properly trained, had the necessary equipment or uniforms, consistent weapons and tactics, according to the report.

“Without consistent policies and tactics for multi-component operations, DHS risks confusion, limited coordination and unintentional injury when protecting federal facilities,” the report said.

There was a lack of equipment among some federal agents and radio communication problems between agents of different agencies.

Some officers did not have shin guards, face shields or goggles in Portland, which was important because officers were “attacked with lasers, fireworks and Molotov cocktails and hit by gunshots. projectiles, including frozen liquids, unknown chemicals, droppings and rocks, ”according to the report. noted.

As of Aug.31, 2020, 755 federal agents had been dispatched to Portland to help defend the U.S. Mark O. Hatfield courthouse, according to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security.

Federal agencies reported 689 injuries to federal agents between June 13 and July 30, including eye irritation, blurred vision and headaches, temporary hearing loss and projectile injuries.

The Federal Protection Service reported a lack of appropriate riot control equipment and communication problems between agencies.

“A senior FPS official noted that since the inception of DHS, there has been no progress towards improving interoperable communications in an emergency,” the report said.

Planning and preparation for working with local or state police was limited, the inspector general’s office also found.

The Federal Protective Service, for example, had not put in place what is called a “memorandum of understanding” with the Portland Police Office, which is responsible for monitoring the exterior of the Federal Courthouse.

While the report found that federal agent uniforms were properly marked, the different uniforms of each of the federal law enforcement agencies did not feature a “united front.” Camouflage uniforms worn by Customs and Border Protection and ICE officials were ditched for alternative uniforms during the operation after the public and members of Congress raised concerns, noted the report.

Weapons of federal officers

Agents of the US Department of Homeland Security in Portland used these less lethal weapons, according to the report from the office of the inspector general of the department.

Although secret service agents did limited investigative work, they did not communicate with the public, according to the inspector general’s report.

From May 29 to August 31, 2020, federal agents made 62 arrests, while local police declared 25 riots and made 682 arrests, according to the report.

The Inspector General’s office made two recommendations: It also recommended that the Federal Protective Service create plans with state and local law enforcement agencies on how to work together to respond to such disruptions. civilians in high-risk federal buildings.

Homeland Security accepted the first recommendation and said it would work towards passing a policy document to designate its federal agent assignments in federal buildings during the civil unrest. It will include verifying the legal training required for officers, a law enforcement directive, additional training and the purchase of equipment.

The Federal Protective Service also agreed to develop a response plan to civil unrest in federal buildings and estimated that it would be completed by March 31, 2022.

In a written response on April 7, Homeland Security official Jim H. Crumpacker responded to the Inspector General: Of this violence over time, and the extent to which local law enforcement has been banned by their political leaders to cooperate with their federal counterparts. “

Crumpacker also wrote that federal agents had never seen some of the tactics the protesters used, including the use of commercial grade lasers or fireworks and what he described as aircraft systems. unmanned who “repeatedly threatened public safety” with illegal recognition.

He said DHS was “committed to improving its law enforcement capacity,” noting that a wide range of federal, state and local officers attended a law enforcement summit in January.

–Maxine Bernstein

Email to [email protected]; 503-221-8212

Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian


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