The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General found that DHS had the authority to deploy federal law enforcement to protect government buildings in Portland, Ore., over the summer but also said similar moves in the future should have better planning.
Critics blasted the decision in early June to send federal officers to the city after protesters repeatedly demonstrated outside the federal courthouse there, vandalizing it, hurling firecrackers and leaving a number of officers injured.
Then-acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf described the more than three months of nightly Portland chaos as the work of “those who seek to undermine our democratic institutions” and noted that local police had appeared unable to quell constant attacks on local businesses and the federal courthouse.
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“Violent opportunists repeatedly targeted and attempt[ed] to burn down a federal courthouse, the seat of justice in downtown Portland,” he said in September.
But opponents of the move claimed the DHS had no authority to intervene, and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler had previously refused to ask for federal assistance and then asked Wolf to pack his officers up and get out of town.
But the inspector general report found that DHS indeed “had the legal authority to designate and deploy DHS law enforcement officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and United States Secret Service to help FPS (Federal Protective Service) protect federal facilities in Portland.”
Still, the watchdog found “DHS was unprepared to effectively execute cross-component activities.”
Not all of the deployed officers had received required training or had been provided with the proper equipment – or even uniforms, the inspector general concluded.
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“This occurred because DHS did not have a comprehensive strategy that addressed the potential for limited state and local law enforcement assistance, as well as cross-designation policies, processes, equipment, and training requirements,” the report reads. “Without the necessary policies, training, and equipment, DHS will continue to face challenges securing Federal facilities during periods of civil disturbance that could result in injury, death, and liability.”
The IG recommended Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas implement a training and equipment program for DHS personnel and that the FPS director establish contingency plans for future unrest. The report said DHS had already agreed to those measures.