U.S. Justice Department Slams City for Failing to Notify It About Portland Police Presentation Slides

“Some PPB and city employees knew or should have known about these materials for years,” the DOJ attorneys wrote.

Police pull a protester from the crowd and arrest them on Sept. 26, 2020. (Alex Wittwer)

The civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing letter to the City Attorney’s Office and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell this morning, following Mayor Ted Wheeler’s Jan. 14 announcement that the city had recently discovered a troubling meme in a PowerPoint presentation slide that was part of a training session for the Police Bureau’s now-dissolved Rapid Response Team.

DOJ attorneys Jonas Geissler and Jared D. Hager wrote in the letter that the city gave them a heads-up about the presentation slides less than 24 hours before the city released them to the press.

“The night before, the city informed us for the first time about what the city described as an ongoing internal investigation to determine who authored certain RRT training slides that have varying degrees of offensive content, incorrect guidance, and false or misleading information related to PPB’s crowd management policies and practices,” the DOJ attorneys wrote.

They added that the city should have reported the RRT training materials to the DOJ “when they were developed,” as is required by the parties’ 2014 settlement agreement.

“The existence of these RRT training materials might have materially impacted our assessments of the city’s compliance with the agreement,” Geissler and Hager wrote, adding that the materials in the presentation were “central” to their 2021 annual compliance report.

“Some PPB and city employees knew or should have known about these materials for years,” they wrote. “The City Attorney’s Office has reportedly known about them since at least September 2021. Had we known about this RRT training, we might have proposed additional remedies. The United States reserves its rights under the agreement related to this matter.”

Hager and Geissler requested that the city provide the following materials by Jan. 28:

1. The original, unredacted electronic records containing all RRT training materials since 2018, including all metadata;

2. An initial report and periodic status reports regarding the internal investigation of this matter, including the circumstances regarding the training being finalized and delivered, and the training information being withheld from the United States; and

3. The city’s plans to ensure that that it timely provides all information required to be disclosed under the agreement.

City Attorney Robert Taylor provided the following comment to WW on Tuesday afternoon: “We received the letter, and we plan to fully respond to the DOJ’s three requests to address their concerns.”

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