Budworth, who was placed on administrative leave by the department on Tuesday, was filmed repeatedly striking a woman in the head with a baton and knocking her to the ground. There have been few criminal cases filed against police officers for excessive use of force at protests, and the Multnomah County indictment marks the first time a member of the Portland Police Department will face prosecution for such actions.
Acting police chief Chris Davis said the members of the Rapid Response Team, which is responsible for crowd control and has been deployed extensively in the past year, met Wednesday evening and voted to offer their resignations from the unit. Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Davis emphasized the “tremendous amount of stress” that the department has faced over the past 14 months.
“Our entire organization, and not even just our sworn staff but also our professional staff, over the past 14 months, has been put through something none of us has ever seen through our careers — and at a level and intensity that I don’t think any other city in the United States has experienced,” Davis said.
Davis described the mass resignation as motivated not just by the indictment but also for what the officers viewed as a lack of support during a time when the city saw over 150 nights of civil unrest, often stemming from protests over the killing of George Floyd.
“This is the culmination of a very long process, and it’s not just an indictment that caused this to happen,” Davis said.
Assignment to the unit is voluntary, and all officers will continue serving in their regular assignments, according to the bureau.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) said Thursday that with the disbanding of the Rapid Response Team, he had ordered the bureau to prepare mobile forces to respond to public safety needs, and that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) had directed the Oregon State Police to have its Mobile Response Team on standby.
In his statement, Wheeler also stated, “I want to acknowledge the toll this past year has taken on them and their families — they have worked long hours under difficult conditions.”
The Rapid Response Team was described as an “all-hazard incident response team,” with members trained in advanced skills related to crowd management and crowd control. A U.S. Department of Justice report found that last year Portland’s police department used force more than 6,000 times last year between May 29 and Nov. 15. The unit was frequently deployed to protests, including the night of Aug. 18, when Budworth was seen striking Teri Jacobs.
Jacobs, described in court papers as a photojournalist, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in September, alleging that Budworth’s actions fit a pattern of excessive force used by the police department against protesters. Jacobs settled with the city in March for $50,000 plus an additional $11,000 in legal fees, according to court records.
The Portland Police Association denounced the indictment, saying that Budworth “has been caught in the crossfire of agenda-driven city leaders and a politicized criminal justice system.”
On Friday, the police union described the resignation as a response to the fraught relationship between the department and the city government, saying, “When elected officials turned nightly violence into political banter for their own personal agendas, those politicized actions put Rapid Response Team members and public safety at risk. The reality is our dedicated RRT members have had enough and were left with no other alternative but to resign from their voluntary positions.”
The disbanding of Portland’s Rapid Response Team bears similarities to a 2020 incident in which 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team resigned following the suspension of two officers who were filmed shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt acknowledged the resignations, issuing a statement that his office would continue to focus on prosecution of all criminal conduct.
“We cannot expect the community to trust law enforcement if we hold ourselves to a lower standard,” Schmidt said.