Rapid Response Team Begins Training

Photo: Heather Roberts

Portland Police now has a team of specially trained officers to respond to unruly crowds and natural disasters. It's different from the team PPB had during the 2020 demonstrations.

Police Chief Bob Day says he knows it's something Portlanders are concerned about. "There’s probably no greater question or topic that I get asked about on a daily or weekly basis than, ‘what is going to happen in the fall of 2024 in the city of Portland?’"

Day says everyone has a right to express their opinion, but there are limitations. The Rapid Response Team will deploy when those efforts turn criminal.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says the city last year accepted a report on Portland’s response to the 2020 protests and riots, which made 12 recommendations, including a new team with new rules.

50 people are now assigned to the RRT. Most were part of the previous team that disbanded in 2021.

The team isn't full-time. Members have other roles within the bureau and come from all precincts.

Commander Craig Dobson says they’re working under new state laws and from new definitions of a crowd. "To what uniforms are required to be worn and what needs to be on those uniforms, as well as what and when you can use certain tools within public order, especially when you get to what state statute at this point calls ‘crowd management.’"

Dobson says Portland Police will use a layered approach that begins with engaging with the leaders of protest groups, to try and prevent criminal activity from happening in the first place.

Commander Franz Schoening says the 50 members selected for RRT had to meet strict qualifications to respond to civil unrest. " They had to be comfortable in large crowds. They have to possess excellent verbal and written communication skills. They have the ability to recognize, acknowledge and adapt to the role and presence of trauma that play into an individual's life, including our members, members of partner agencies and community members. We ask that they have mountain bike certification."

Re-establishing the RRT is one of a dozen recommendations from an independent report on Portland’s response to the 2020 riots.

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