Portland Police Say Protesters Ruined Their Boots With Paint-Filled Balloons. They Want the City to Pay for New Ones.

The city's Office of Management & Finance says it is unusual for city employees to file legal claims for clothing damaged on the job.

A police officer attempts to kick a smoke firework away from the street and towards protesters, but misses. (Alex Wittwer)

At least 14 Portland police officers have filed tort claim notices against the city since July 1 to replace work boots that they say were damaged by protesters who threw paint-filled balloons and water bottles at them during demonstrations.

"While serving on PPB's Rapid Response Team in crowd control situations during a violent riot," one officer wrote in a September claim, "I was struck with a balloon filled with paint that covered my boots and pants in pink and blue paint ruining their appearance." (He is asking the city for $184.95 to replace the damaged boots.)

The boots for which officers are seeking reimbursement range from $145 to $370 a pair. All told, the 14 PPB officers are asking the city to pay over $2,700 for new boots.

That number is paltry in comparison to the $9 million protests have cost the city so far. But the practice is unusual, according to Heather Hafer, a spokeswoman for the city's Office of Management & Finance, which fields tort claims against the city.

Hafer says filing a legal claim against the city for clothes damaged while working is a new trend that began this summer.

"Up until the Black Lives Matter/George Floyd protests it was very uncommon for City employees to submit tort claims for clothing damaged while working," Hafer told WW. "However, since late May it has become somewhat more common—particularly for Portland Police Bureau employees."

An officer asking the city to reimburse him for a new pair of $220 boots included this photo of his damaged boots in the tort claim notice, filed in September.

Despite the fact that the paint-splattering incidents happened at different protests during the last four months, the circumstances under which police say their shoes were damaged are strikingly similar.

They allege that protesters threw water balloons full of paint at them in various colors, including green, orange, pink, blue and brown. The paint would then splash across their shirts, pants and shoes. The officers say they are unable to remove the paint, and that their shoes are permanently ruined.

"Demonstrators at the [Portland Police Association] office threw balloons full of paint which permanently discolored/damaged my work boots and uniform pants," another officer wrote in a July claim. "Both my work boots and my work pants have been heavily damaged by paint. It won't wash out." (This officer is asking the city to reimburse him for a $370 pair of boots.)

One officer alleges that human feces were mixed into the paint balloons thrown at him.

"While working the protest downtown on 6-27-2020, a protester threw paint mixed with feces on me and it covered my pants and boots. I tried to wash it off, but it won't come out." (This officers says his boots cost $160.)

Protesters, too, have filed over a dozen tort claim notices against the city since June. Their complaints typically accuse Portland police of assault and excessive use of force, or of deploying tear gas so close to residences that it wafted into Portlanders' homes.

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