Rapid Response Team

Information
Backs of RRT members at an outdoor training.
The Rapid Response Team (RRT) is an all-hazard incident response team capable of quickly deploying bureau members with specialized training to respond to incidents requiring higher levels of technical expertise. This includes public assemblies, civil disturbances, and natural or man-made disasters.

The Rapid Response Team has 3 full-time sworn employees that coordinate training and equipment management, including 1 lieutenant, 1 sergeant, and 1 officer. They’re housed within the Specialized Resources Division at PPB, which is overseen by a Commander, who reports to the Investigations Branch Assistant Chief.

The team is also comprised of detached sworn PPB members who work other jobs in the Bureau, including patrol, detectives, and specialty units. They can be called upon to respond to situations where RRT’s expertise and training is needed. Including the full-time and detached members, there are a total of 42 officers, 8 sergeants, and 1 lieutenant assigned to the team. 

RRT is a critical piece of PPB’s response strategy to public order events, but it is not the only piece. PPB uses a tiered approach to demonstrations, starting with events that require no police involvement. The City of Portland has a long, proud history of civic involvement and constitutionally protected activities, and PPB supports those activities. The vast majority of demonstrations, marches, and other gatherings require no police at all. Some are monitored by PPB because there is a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity may occur, and some may be attended by Event Liaison Officers. ELOs are sworn members who wear white shirts that say “Liaison Officer” on them. They are not members of RRT, and do not have an enforcement function. They serve as a point of contact for event organizers to communicate with PPB. 

For events with a higher likelihood of criminal activity, officers on bicycles may be brought in, and some targeted enforcement may take place, including arrests where appropriate. For the most dangerous situations, RRT members with specialized protective equipment and training may respond, under the direction and coordination of a Crowd Management Incident Commander. 

On June 13, 2024, the Portland Police Bureau introduced the new team to the public, shared some of the uniforms and equipment, and summarized the functions of RRT and PPB’s public order response plans.

History

In 2000, the Portland Police Bureau developed the Rapid Response Team. This team was an all-hazard incident response team capable of quickly deploying members with specialized training to respond to incidents requiring higher levels of technical expertise including public assemblies, civil disturbances, and natural or man-made disasters. 

All Rapid Response Team members were trained in advanced skills related to crowd management and crowd control including crowd psychology and behavior, team formations and movements, the use of enhanced personal protective equipment, use of force and de-escalation. 

In addition, the Rapid Response Team had specialty cadres within the team to include Instructors, Grenadiers (less lethal impact munitions and riot control agents), Field Force Extrication (defeating protester devices), Urban Search and Rescue, Communications (radio, cellular, and data networks), and CBR­NE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive hazards). These cadre members received additional specialized training in the fields listed above to enhance their ability to respond to all-hazard incidents or to serve as subject matter experts to assist in Bureau operations following a large-scale disaster. 

The program deployed up to 76 highly trained officers and sergeants. The members were selected from throughout the Bureau to ensure the least amount of disruption per precinct. Officers were assigned to a particular squad and supervised by a sergeant.

The Police Bureau was in contact with other law enforcement organizations around the U.S. and Canada to review their Rapid Response Teams. The Portland Police Bureau’s RRT employed many of the basic Mobile Field Force tactics that are used by local agencies.

The team began training in February 2001 and began working that year.

In 2010 the Rapid Response Team management moved from the Tactical Operations Division to the Emergency Management Unit of the Strategic Services Division. The goal was to coordinate these emergency responses. In 2012, it moved under the Incident Command Structure in Operations.

In 2021, the members who served on RRT resigned their detached positions but continued with their regular assignments in the Bureau. There were approximately 50 employees serving on RRT at the time.

In March 2024, PPB posted a sworn position announcement for detached sergeants and officers to apply for the new team. In April 2024, after a comprehensive evaluation process, the team members were selected. 

Statistics, as of April 2024: 

  • 8 Sergeants
  • 42 Officers
  • Of the 8 current RRT Sergeants, all of them were members of the RRT team in 2020-2021 (note: not all of them were sergeants in 2020; 5 were promoted to sergeant since being officers on RRT in 2020-2021).
  • 27 current RRT members were members of RRT in 2020-2021.
  • 4 current RRT members were part of RRT in the past but were not part of RRT in 2020-2021.
  • 11 Current RRT members are new to the team. 
  • Of the 50 current RRT members, 9 are female. 
  • Four of the 8 current RRT Sergeants are from racially diverse backgrounds.

May 29-31, 2024, new RRT members attended the Oregon State Police Public Order Basic Course

June 14, 2024, the new team attended their first full-team training. The team will get additional training monthly. 


2020 Review Report

The 2020 Review Report critically examines the Portland Police Bureau's (PPB) response to the protests and riots that occurred in 2020. The report, conducted by Independent Monitor LLC, spans from May 2022 to February 2023 and incorporates insights from city officials, community members, and neighboring law enforcement agencies. The report aims to identify the shortcomings in PPB's handling of public order events and to provide actionable recommendations to prevent future occurrences.

A summary of the findings and recommendations are below.  

Key Findings

The 2020 protests in Portland were triggered by a combination of pandemic lockdowns, high-profile police killing, political violence, and an aggressive federal response. These unique conditions strained the city's resources and highlighted several deficiencies in the PPB's approach to public order management.

1. Mutual Aid Network Collapse: The mutual aid network, essential for supplementing police resources, collapsed, leaving the city vulnerable. Rebuilding this network is crucial for future crisis management.

2. Overreliance on Riot Control Agents (RCA): PPB's excessive use of RCAs, such as CS gas, during crowd dispersal was problematic. The need for more targeted crowd interventions was evident.

3. Inadequate Use of Force Training: Training on the appropriate use of force, especially less-lethal munitions, was insufficient. This gap in training contributed to misapplications of force during the protests.

4. Public Order Training Deficiencies: PPB's training did not sufficiently cover de-escalation and procedural justice, which are critical for effective public order policing.

5. Insufficient Command Preparedness: The PPB lacked adequately trained command personnel to manage prolonged civil disturbances. This deficiency hindered the effective management of public order during the events.

Recommendations

The report outlines twelve actionable recommendations aimed at improving the city's response to future public order events:

1. Rebuild Mutual Aid Network: Establish durable mutual aid agreements with neighboring jurisdictions to ensure robust support during emergencies.

2. Reduce Reliance on Riot Control Agents (RCA): Strengthen policies and training to minimize the use of RCAs in favor of more precise crowd management strategies.

3. Strengthen Use of Force Directives: Clarify and enforce directives related to the use of force to ensure consistency and appropriateness in their application.

4. Ensure Internal Control Compliance: Enforce PPB directives related to internal controls during public order events to maintain discipline and accountability.

5. Create Specialized Public Order Team: Develop a specialized team trained to handle advanced public order scenarios, ensuring they meet contemporary standards.

6. Scrutinize Public Order Team: Subject the new public order team to rigorous oversight by PPB executives and Portland’s new oversight agency, ensuring transparency and accountability.

7. Improve Public Order Training: Enhance the public order training program to align with the National Tactical Officers Association standards, emphasizing de-escalation and procedural justice.

8. Increase Executive Visibility: Require PPB chiefs to be visibly engaged with officers in the field during public order deployments.

9. Develop Incident Commanders: Prepare a cadre of leaders skilled in public order event management to ensure operational readiness.

10. Implement Pre-Operational Briefings: Develop and enforce a pre-operational briefing checklist to ensure comprehensive communication of engagement rules and de-escalation tactics.

11. Formalize Debriefing Process: Establish a detailed debriefing process for public order deployments to facilitate learning and improvement.

12. Conduct Self-Assessment: Produce a detailed self-assessment within 180 days to evaluate the implementation of these recommendations, enhancing transparency and accountability.

Conclusion

The 2020 Review Report provides a comprehensive analysis of the PPB's response to the 2020 protests and offers a clear path forward. By implementing the outlined recommendations, the City of Portland and PPB can restore public trust, improve public order management, and prevent the recurrence of the challenges faced in 2020. The commitment to these changes is essential for fostering a safer, more resilient community.


Other notable events: 

March 20, 2024:Portland City Council Authorizes Letter of Agreement with the Portland Police Association for the Portland Police Bureau to create a new public order team with expertise in providing police services during public order events Council approval of premium pay for RRT members.

May 29, 2024:Portland City Council ordinance approves public order shields and replenishment of crowd control munitions.