A Portland Police Bureau training presentation on protests ended with a PowerPoint slide listing a prayer for a “dirty hippy” and the promise to send “my humble servants” with hats and bats to “christen” their “heads with hickory” accompanied by a photo of a helmeted officer raising his arm to a woman.
The last of the 110 slides in the presentation showed the “Prayer of the Alt Knight | Based Stickman” meme. “Based Stickman” refers to Kyle Chapman, the founder of a group called the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights that formed as the “tactical defense arm” of the Proud Boys, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He’s a far-right Trump supporter and street brawler who earned the nickname “Based Stickman” after a video showed him hitting an antifascist activist with a wooden sign post in Berkeley in 2017.
“I am disgusted that this offensive content was added to a training presentation for our police officers,” Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as police commissioner, said in a statement Friday. “As soon as I was made aware of the incident, I reached out to Chief (Chuck) Lovell, who shared my deep concern and assured me that a thorough and complete investigation was underway.”
The city made the slide public, months after city attorneys turned it over to lawyers for the nonprofit Don’t Shoot Portland, a Black-led nonprofit that advocates for social and racial justice. The group has sued the city in federal court alleging officers used excessive force responding to protests in 2020.
Wheeler called the slide “unauthorized” and said it was discovered last September while the city was reviewing and preparing documents to be turned over in the Don’t Shoot Portland legal case.
The mayor said it’s unclear who drafted or added the slide to the training material or if it was used in training. An initial investigation suggests it may have been created in 2018, “though further investigation is needed to confirm,” according to the mayor’s office.
An initial inquiry also suggests the training material was intended for multiple agencies that provide officers to serve as members of the bureau’s Rapid Response or Mobile Response crowd control teams.
The mayor said the training slide wasn’t made public earlier “to protect the integrity” of the early part of the police internal inquiry.
Attorney Juan Chavez, one of the lawyers representing Don’t Shoot Portland, said the slide “is only coming to light because plaintiffs stood up to the City and sued them.”
As a result of the lawsuit, a federal judge last year restricted officers with the Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team from using crowd-control launchers during protests until they received further training and “can recognize and articulate a threat without speculating” and understood the difference between active aggression and passive resistance.
An internal affairs investigation began in September when the training slide was discovered, Wheeler said. No discipline has been issued at this time, he said.
The city released the full training presentation and the inappropriate slide Friday, as it anticipated a new court filing in the case. Don’t Shoot Portland’s lawyers are planning to file a motion to certify a class of plaintiffs in the case, Chavez said.
The nonprofit’s lawyers initially learned of the derogatory training meme during a deposition taken in the case last year and obtained a copy from city lawyers under a protective order in September, Chavez said.
Through discussions with city lawyers, that protective order was lifted earlier this week as Don’t Shoot Portland prepared to file a motion to certify as a class of plaintiffs people who protested in Portland for nearly six months, from late May 2020 through mid-November 2020. City lawyers argued to a judge last year in court papers that the nonprofit’s push for discovery on police training and other material was overly broad.
Police Chief Chuck Lovell said in a statement: “The message on the training presentation slide was contrary to PPB’s values and what we are trying to achieve as an organization.’’
The chief said the content and message in the slide “is not representative of the Portland Police Bureau and it is disappointing to all of us who work so hard to earn the community’s trust.’’
The larger slide presentation identifies players in protests as “From the Right wing,” “From the Left wing,” “Everyone in between” and “Anyone with an agenda.” Another slide suggests that “Signs can help determine Attitude and demeanor of crowd” and one lists precursors to violence as “masking up, thick clothing, extra padding, phone # on the arm, Backpacks/bags, Large signs, Shields,” tripods, fruit baskets, squirt bottles, shields, etc.
A further slide says negotiated management to de-escalate confrontations “does not work with anarchists or radical groups who refused to negotiate with police” and “does not work for a spontaneous public disorder/riot.”
Chavez said the ending slide “strongly suggests that the campaign of police violence that began on May 29, 2020, was motivated by the goal of silencing advocates for police reform, defunding, and abolition.”
“I’m grateful that the public has an avenue for recourse through the Courts, but we shouldn’t have to put the entire weight of accountability on brave plaintiffs. We expect that from the City,” he said.
Wheeler urged Portland officers to “reject the harmful and divisive attitude expressed in that slide.”
“I believe that the hard-working members of the Portland Police Bureau who are seeing this for the first time are also angered and disgusted by the image and words on this slide and how it portrays members of our community and law enforcement.’’
Sgt. Aaron Schmautz, president of the Portland Police Association, said in a statement: “The content of the slide does not reflect the values of our hard working and devoted members, or our values as police union. I support the full, fair, and transparent investigation that began in September. We will have no further comment until the investigation is complete and all relevant context and surrounding facts have been discovered.”
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty wrote on Twitter after the mayor’s release of the slide, “This is horrifying and we cannot be silent when our sworn police are utilizing such dehumanizing ideologies as they protect our communities. Police have a role, and trust is a cornerstone to the job.”
Commissioner Mingus Mapps issued a statement: “I am frustrated and disappointed by the Rapid Response Team training document. This team was disbanded, and we are reforming our approach to protests and rioting. The most unfortunate aspect of this is that it takes the attention away from the good work the Portland Police Bureau is doing to address gun violence and increase public safety in Portland.”
Hardesty, Mapps and the two other council offices didn’t learn of the investigation until Thursday, when Bobby Lee, the mayor’s chief of staff, called an emergency meeting with those offices’ chiefs of staff at about 4:30 p.m. Lee gave a brief overview of the probe but didn’t provide a copy of the slide, describing it only as an image that some segments of the city would find “offensive,” said three people with direct knowledge of the briefing.
“Portlanders and the Department of Justice have asked us to transform our public safety system, and this is why,” Commissioner Carmen Rubio said in a statement. “This disturbing image was not just the work of a single individual: it’s also the passive acceptance of those who do nothing. This flies in the face of the hopeful progress that is happening now to change our system. Authentic transformation must have the commitment of our entire community — but especially elected leaders and law enforcement leadership — to accept responsibility where we need to and build a community safety system that, unlike this photo, will make us proud.’’
The suit by Don’t Shoot Portland led U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez in November to find two Portland police officers had acted in contempt of his June 26, 2020, order barring police from firing two types of less-lethal launchers and using pepper spray on people engaged in passive resistance.
The nonprofit’s lawyers had sought more drastic sanctions, including a ban on impact munitions and the permanent removal of officers from protest duty if they violate the court order, with fines issued for future violations.
The judge ruled that police violated his court order three times on June 30 as officers declared an unlawful assembly and tried to push protesters to the east after they marched to the police union office in North Portland from Peninsula Park. The judge specifically identified the instances when police fired a FN303 launcher at people who weren’t actively aggressive.
One of the police PowerPoint training slides released Friday shows a woman holding a sign, shouting something, standing still in front of a line of riot-clad officers, and identifies the encounter, as “Active resistance.”
The Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team, its specialized crowd control unit, resigned en masse last year, a day after one of its officers was indicted on a misdemeanor assault charge, accused of striking a woman in the head with a baton after a demonstration in the summer of 2020.
Before the team’s resignation, city-hired consultants noted that the court-ordered extra training for the team turned out to be “overall disappointing” and led by an instructor who at times “appeared dismissive” of the judge’s ruling.
Oregonian Staff Writer Shane Dixon Kavanaugh contributed to this story.
— Maxine Bernstein
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