(Photo © J. Maus)
Our story about cops on bikes at the Occupy Portland protests yesterday has sparked a dialogue (that’s happening citywide, not just on BikePortland) about the size and style of force the City of Portland is bringing to these events.
In a comment on our story yesterday, former PPB bicycle liaison officer and noted community advocate Robert Pickett explained the reason for riot gear. “Jonathon [sic],” wrote Pickett, “the officers in riot gear are not there to respond to people like you, or most of the protesters at any demonstration. That is one of the reasons why this critique comes so often, I believe — most of the protestors are not there to attack or injure officers, so it is hard for them to understand the need for heavily armored officers.”
Pickett went on to share that police are prepping for the “small minority who mingle among the peaceful protestors.”
“As a bicycle-mounted officer at some of these protests,” he continued, “on more than one occasion I was happy to have the more heavily equipped officers close by when an altercation unexpectedly broke out”
It’s an important discussion to have and we hope Police Chief Reese and Mayor Adams are listening and thinking about it. The two photos below help illustrate the point.
First, a bicycle officer at the protests yesterday…
And here’s an officer in full riot gear (taken at the same protest)…
Yes, police need to be prepared and protected. But as we’ve seen, things turn ugly when communication breaks down and emotions take over. It’s just a hunch, but it seems if you have more officers on bikes and on foot that aren’t covered in riot gear, you’d have the opportunity for more productive interactions, less tension — and therefore a lower chance for the horrible incidents that happened yesterday.
What do you think?
Of course, as this video (taken yesterday) shows, just because cops are on bikes doesn’t mean unfortunate incidents will go away completely.