Every member of a police crowd-control unit in the US city of Portland has resigned after one of its officers was indicted on an assault charge.
The charge stemmed from violent anti-racism protests that rocked the city, in the state of Oregon, last year.
Prosecutors allege the officer used “excessive and unlawful use of force” against a protester in August 2020.
But Portland’s police union described the decision to prosecute the officer as “politically driven”.
The crowd-control unit, known as the Rapid Response Team (RRT), comprised about 50 police officers. They serve in the team voluntarily and are deployed during events such as riots, large-scale searches or disaster situations.
In a statement, Portland police said members had “left their voluntary positions and no longer comprise a team”. It said the officers would continue in their regular assignments.
Portland experienced weeks of protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May.
Amid widespread rioting, vandalism and arson that often took place at night, the RTT was sent in to disperse crowds.
The then Trump administration also sent federal security forces to the city in July to protect federal buildings that were being vandalised. However, their deployment exacerbated civil unrest, especially when footage emerged of protesters being grabbed off the street by federal officers and forced into unmarked cars.
Earlier this week, a grand jury decided to indict Portland police officer Corey Budworth with one count of fourth-degree assault – the first RTT member to face criminal prosecution stemming from the protests.
Video of the incident purportedly shows an officer using his baton to push a woman to the ground and then pushing the baton into her face, the New York Times reported.
The Portland Police Association said the officer had been “caught in the crossfire of agenda-driven city leaders and a politicised criminal justice system”.
Acting Portland Police Chief Chris Davis said the mass resignations came after “a very long complicated history of things that have gone on over the last 14 months”.
“I don’t think it is just an indictment that caused this to happen,” he told reporters.
“Our entire organisation has been put through something none of us have ever seen through our careers – and at a level and intensity that I don’t think any other city in the United States has experienced,” he added.
Last October, the then police association president, Daryl Turner, wrote a letter to the city’s mayor and police chief asking them to “stand up and publicly support police bureau members who voluntarily serve on the Rapid Response Team”.
“Our RRT members do not volunteer to have Molotov cocktails, fireworks, explosives, rocks, bottles, urine, faeces and other dangerous objects thrown at them,” he wrote.