This was originally published by The Stranger's sister publication The Portland Mercury. Follow the Mercury for daily coverage of Portland's ongoing protests. —Eds. Note
The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) spent $7,517,276 responding to the first two months of Portland's racial justice protests.
While not a complete picture of the city's costs for the past four months of demonstrations, records obtained by the Mercury of PPB protest-related expenses between June 1 and August 1 offer a snapshot of how PPB has used public dollars to respond to recent demonstrations.
The vast majority of PPB expenses during this time period went to overtime costs: Officers raked in $5,012,418 in overtime pay for working extra shifts. Much of the remaining $2 million is divvied up between regular officer pay, benefits, and pensions—which is to be expected.
Where the city spent non-payroll funds, however, is arguably the most interesting.
Over the course of 61 days, PPB spent nearly $300,000 on food and drinks for officers assigned to protest duty. That includes thousand-dollar orders to Red Robin, Chick-fil-A, Panera Bread, Olive Garden, and Baja Fresh. (It also includes a $27.98 purchase at Donut Land)
Meals for city employees aren't normally covered by public dollars—even getting snacks for a public budget hearing or committee meeting approved by the city finance office can be a challenge. But that level of frugality doesn't apply to police during protest season, thanks to a special line item in the city's current union contract with the Portland Police Association (PPA).
According to the PPA contract, if an officer's safety could be threatened if they were tasked with acquiring meals on their own while on the job, then the city must foot the food bill.
Or, in contract terms: "If the safety of the officer during emergency conditions or other City-directed operational needs makes it necessary for the City to prescribe the areas in which officers may eat their meals, the City shall be obligated to furnish adequate meals."
Records show PPB spent at least $83,190 on munitions and other weaponry used against protesters during the two-month window. This includes $1,900 to purchase a gun that shoots pepper balls, and $5,056 on grenades containing CS gas, the potent form of tear gas recently banned by Mayor Ted Wheeler.
The city also spent at least $1,500 on gear related to PPB's attempts to livestream the nightly demonstrations. PPB was subsequently sued by the ACLU for illegally filming protesters in late July. On July 30, a Multnomah County judge issued a temporary restraining order which officially barred PPB from livestreaming.
Another noteworthy price: $6,895 on temporary fencing to surround PPB's North Precinct and downtown blocks during various protest activities. PPB spent an additional $1,600 boarding up windows and doors around government buildings during the first two months of protests.
The two months of expenses is equivalent to 3 percent of PPB's annual budget. This calculation also leaves out the costs of weaponry, salaries, and other operational supplies (rental vans, perhaps?) used by the federal officers who led local law enforcement's protest response for most of July.