(The Center Square) — About 100 Oregon state police will be hitting the ground in Portland as federal agents leave the city, Portland leaders announced during a briefing on Thursday.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland Police Bureau Chief Chuck Lovell said state and city police will "work jointly" following the abrupt announcement of federal agents' tentative departure.
The two differed in their language concerning the stated role of Oregon State Police (OSP) and the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) in policing ongoing protests.
“OSP will have contact with the federal officers who are here,” Lovell said. “They will coordinate efforts at the federal courthouse and OSP and PPB will work outside in a joint manner to respond to crowd control issues. We’ll be in close contact with OSP. They’ll have the lead at the federal courthouse and they’ll be the ones coordinating the handoff with the federal officials."
Portland City Council voted last week to ban PPB from coordinating with federal agents—a move that Lovell claimed would make it “more difficult” for PPB officers on the ground.
“We are trying to manage some fluid, rapidly changing, violent situations on a very rapid basis," Lovell said. "And right next to us, we have a team of people who are trying to do the same thing. We can’t communicate with each other to know what’s about to happen. It creates a potentially dangerous situation."
Wheeler said that he was informed Portland police would be the ones guarding the city's Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse where the majority of Portland's most recent protests have occurred.
The mayor further apologized to "non-violent demonstrators" tear gassed by police over past months. He stressed that, in his belief, the Portland Police Bureau made "mistakes when it came to crowd dispersal."
While Wheeler directed the PPB to limit tear gas use, he did not ban the practice.
Speaking on violence allegedly committed by demonstrators during the protests, Wheeler said that he believed it comes from a "small group" of people and largely acts as a "distraction" from larger movements against police brutality.
Wheeler himself was tear gassed by federal agents in front of the federal courthouse earlier this month speaking to protesters.
It is unclear what crowd control methods OSP have been directed to use if any.
Lovell described OSP's deployment in the city as a "victory" and a potential stepping stone to de-escalating tensions between protesters and law enforcement.
"We're going to do everything in our power to de-escalate and put these nightly events on a more safe stance," Lovell said.
The PPB faces a variety of lawsuits regarding misconduct during the city's protests against police brutality, including its alleged practice of conducting "unlawful" surveillance on protesters.
The Oregon State Police Department could not be immediately reached for comment.