Randy Sutton Speaks to Portland Police Bureau Rapid Response Team
Portland, OR – LENN’s Voice of American Law Enforcement, Randy Sutton, spoke to a group of Portland Police officers who have been on the front lines of the rioting for the majority of the last eight months. Sutton called his seminar Pride in Policing and used his time to remind officers that most of the people across our nation support law enforcement, as well as to address the rising issue of Post Traumatic Stress Injury/Disorder in policing.
The leadership with the Portland Police Bureau put together a week-long training for those officers on the Rapid Response team, presumably to address their mental health and give them a break from the violence, the rioting, the chaos, and likely to prepare them to what could be to come later in the week.
The FBI has warned that rioting and violence could be seen at the capitols of all 50 states as well as major cities. Portland has been the focus of many due to the violence, rioting, and destruction of city streets and businesses after the death of George Floyd in May in Minneapolis.
Although one may not come to this conclusion based on media coverage, or the lack thereof, Portland officers have been abused, harassed, and attacked physically and verbally by the rioters, and likewise have been verbally accosted by both local politicians and the media. Smartly, PPB leadership has grown concerned about the mental health of their officers.
Sutton spoke specifically of Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who has decreed that he will not prosecute those that are “only” rioting. If they have committed theft or assault, he will consider those cases, but for “just” rioting, breaking curfew, interfering with a police officer, he will not.
This move essentially gave a free pass, he said, to people being out in the streets terrorizing businesses and local residents. And the police are feeling the ramifications.
Sutton spoke of PTSI/PTSD and how officers are at risk of symptoms in general, and even more so when exposed to continuous trauma for months on end (such as, for example, violent riots on a nightly basis).
It doesn’t help, he added, when police departments all over the nation abandon their officers as soon as they’re injured (physically or otherwise) and are no longer of use to them.
Post Traumatic Stress Growth is something that was focused on by Sutton. He said that what these officers have been going through just in the last several months, in addition to their regular shift incidents, is extremely traumatic and can have lasting effects on officers involved. But, he said, there is hope and possibility beyond the trauma.
He encouraged the officers to reach out to the organization he founded, The Wounded Blue, for themselves or one of their fellow officers if they needed a little extra support. The Wounded Blue, he said, is made up of officers who have been through all different kinds of traumas and they understand what the job does to a person. They have been there. And they can help.
I spoke to several officers at the seminar. First off, the entire group seemed to be in high spirits which is a huge feat in itself given the months and months of abuse they’ve endured. As mentioned, the media mostly either completely ignored or at least downplayed the violence that’s taken place in the city (much like other cities around the country).
Although we have been on the frontlines (undercover or otherwise) following the events, one type of instance went unknown even by us until this seminar. An officer told me that on more than one occasion, a resident in an apartment downtown at the heart of the riots threw, from up to five stories up, pieces of furniture, such as a couch, out of a window. Thankfully, the worst injury that came from something like that was to a patrol car windshield instead of an officer.
But it was still frustrating, however, that the media didn’t even mention that.
An officer told me that he was grateful that Sutton had taken the time to speak to the officers. He said they had been beaten down (emotionally, and some physically) and the reprieve and reminder of appreciation was much needed. Another officer said he was glad to learn about The Wounded Blue and knew someone who needed to be referred.
One officer told me that he’s also frustrated that their tools are being taken away. “They keep taking our tools,” he said, “leaving us out there with just ourselves and our guns. What’s going to happen when it’s a group of people ganging up on an officer and all he has is his gun?”
“I don’t think they get it,” another officer said. “That’s what hurts. They don’t care. We are not trying to hurt people, we are safeguarding our lives. Why don’t they care as much as we do?”
Why don’t they, indeed.
It seems like they (politicians, prosecutors, and city leadership) care more about catering to the mob than they do about protecting their officers.
There is a silver lining, and that’s members of the public. Sutton asked who in the room had seen a different side of policing, as in who had been thanked in the recent months for their service.
Happily, almost every single hand went up.
That is because of YOU, the pro-police supporters, the flag wavers, the “heart attack” posters (people who post the blue hearts around downtown Portland and the precincts that say encouraging and thankful phrases), the women of the Blue Plate Special Comfort Group, who made large meals all through the riots and beyond and served them to the local and federal police.
These officers may have been all but abandoned by their politicians. By their prosecutor. By their city leadership and even in some cases by their department leadership. But they know they’re appreciated through it all thanks to those who take the time to even just say “thank you” when they see an officer on the street.