The Justice Department Office of the Inspector General has promised to investigate potential excessive use of force by federal agents in recent protests in Portland, as well as their deployment against protesters in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC on June 1.
In a statement Thursday, the DoJ said that the probe was opened after requests from lawmakers on Capitol Hill and US Attorney in Oregon Billy J Williams. DoJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected coordinate the investigation with the Department of Homeland Security.
"The review will include examining the training and instruction that was provided to the DOJ law enforcement personnel; compliance with applicable identification requirements, rules of engagement, and legal authorities; and adherence to DOJ policies regarding the use of less-lethal munitions, chemical agents, and other uses of force," Horowitz's office noted.
"With regard to events in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, the DOJ OIG will coordinate our review with the Department of Interior OIG, which recently announced its review of those events. If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review," the statement added.
Federal agents' actions in the Portland garnered national media attention this week amid heavy clashes with protesters. On Wednesday, Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear gassed while taking part in the ongoing anti-racism and police violence protest. Wheeler had previously criticized Washington for deploying federal officers to his city, and said the deployment only served to exacerbate tensions. The federal government sent federal police to the West Coast city in early July after President Donald Trump promised to restore order in Portland and other cities following weeks of protests, which began in late May following the killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis by a white police officer.
Portland's city council has prohibited local police from coordinating with federal agents, and from using force against journalists and observers. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, a Russian TV crew was attacked and beaten by police while covering the protests.
114 members of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Wednesday asking them to explain the "deployment of roving units of the secret police under the control of the president," which they called "an absolute affront to the Bill of Rights." Among the lawmakers' complaints were the fact that the federal officers are wearing camouflage uniforms with no badge or insignia denoting their agency or identity, which they say makes it difficult for them to be held accountable for their actions.