The Portland Police Department explicitly bans officers from using chokeholds, neck restraints and other deadly force techniques that apply pressure on a person’s throat.
The ban is contained in the department’s use-of-force policy, which was disclosed in the aftermath of several high-profile instances of police brutality and deadly force around the country.
The release of the document also came ahead of Tuesday’s remote meeting of the city’s Health and Human Services and Public Safety committees. The committees were scheduled to review the PPD’s practices and policies.
The Police Department is also preparing a full report for the City Council regarding a June 1 protest in downtown Portland that turned violent as protestors clashed with police and dozens were arrested.
The police policy states deadly force is only justified when an officer “reasonably believes it is necessary.” This includes defending themselves from what an officer believes to be an “imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.” But deadly force should not be used against a person intending to hurt themselves or their own property, the policy states.
The document goes on to state that deadly force is justified to effect an arrest or prevent a person from escaping who officers believe has committed a crime involving threats of deadly force; who is using a dangerous weapon to attempt an escape; and who is an immediate threat to cause serious injury or kill the officer. It also states police must let the person in question know they are police officers.
A third stipulation states deadly force “must be reasonable to present the escape.”
A fourth states officers should be aware that just because a person is a fleeing felon doesn’t mean deadly force is justified.
A fifth states officers must give warning prior to the use of deadly force, and multiple times if possible. However, it states this warning “should not be given if the officer believes that it would place the officer or others in jeopardy.”
The meeting on Tuesday was scheduled to cover use-of-force and chokehold policies, as well as body cameras, implicit biases, crisis intervention and de-escalation.
The policy document defines lethal force as methods including “the discharge of a firearm, the delivery of a baton strike to a subject’s head, or the use of a neck hold.”
The document defines a chokehold technique as “involving the application of pressure on a person’s throat, and/or restriction of the airway or blood circulation in the neck.”
The document states a Use of Force Committee will meet monthly to review use-of-force incidents in detail. The committee will also meet once a year to review the analysis of all use-of-force incidents for the year, looking for long-term patterns or trends that may be of concern.
All instances of uses of force must be reported through a software program known as Blue Team. This includes deadly force, as well as non-deadly incidents, such as the use of a canine, use of physical restraints, and using firearms, batons, pepper spray, impact projectiles like rubber bullets or pepper balls.
The release of the policy comes after several protests that broke out in Portland following the killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, by the Minneapolis Police Department. The MPD fired the officers involved in the killing, including Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. All four officers involved are facing charges, and Chauvin faces a second-degree murder charge.
At a Friday march in downtown Portland, some 2,000 protestors laid down on Commercial Street, with their hands behind their backs. Protesters marched for eight hours – one hour for each minute Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
The peaceful protest, which began at Lincoln Park, took protesters throughout the Old Port, including down Middle Street past the police station. Days earlier, this had been the scene where a largely peaceful protest had turned violent, with protestors throwing bottles at police, and police deploying pepper spray and arresting dozens of individuals.
Friday’s protest included chants of “I can’t breathe,” “No justice, no peace,” and other chants. Portable speakers were carried on carts so chants could be heard throughout the crowd.
Several protesters carried signs calling for the Police Department to be defunded, which has gained steam on a national level as people around the country protest police brutality.
However, Friday’s protest largely remained peaceful, with police remaining on the periphery. Around 7:45 p.m. as protestors marched up Franklin Street, a few protesters were chatting with a few police officers about the 1973 crime film “Serpico,” a film about uncovering police corruption in New York City from 1960 to 1972.
A protest flyer and Black Lives Matter organizers also called for the resignation of Portland City Manager Jon Jennings, who is hired by the City Council. Mayor Kate Snyder and city councilors responded by saying they support the peaceful protests, although they defended Jennings and rejected the suggestion he should resign.
“The city manager has my full support,” Snyder said during a Saturday press conference outside City Hall, where City Councilor Jill Duson also said the focus of the protest on Friday had been co-opted by the distribution of the document demanding Jennings’ resignation.