The Justice Department’s internal watchdog announced Thursday that he is opening an investigation into the DOJ law enforcement response to recent unrest in Portland and Washington, D.C., after multiple calls for it to do so from lawmakers and officials.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that after complaints and a referral from the U.S. attorney in Oregon, the Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation into use of force allegations involving DOJ personnel in Portland this month. He said the investigation would be coordinated with the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
It comes after weeks of controversy surrounding federal law enforcement presence in Portland. Both agencies ordered federal law enforcement to protect monuments and federal property this month in response to weeks of rioting and protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Democrats in the state and others accused federal law enforcement of a heavy-handed response and of escalating the situation. They also pointed to instances where they said “unidentified” officers were seen bundling suspects into unmarked vehicles – although DHS has denied they are unidentified.
The U.S. attorney, along with Oregon’s congressional delegation, had requested an investigation from the IG.
“The American people deserve transparency and accountability,” the congressional delegation wrote on Tuesday. “We live in a democratic republic, not an authoritarian police state. The repeated use of federal force against civilians warrants urgent investigation and raises serious questions about the directives behind this effort and misuse of force that has an apparently political motivation.”
On Thursday, Horowitz also announced that it would be reviewing “the DOJ’s and its law enforcement components’ roles and responsibilities in responding to protest activity and civil unrest in Washington, D.C., and in Portland, Ore., over the prior two months.”
“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,” a statement from his office said.
In regards to the June 1 events in Lafayette Square, where protesters were cleared by law enforcement before President Trump visited St. John’s Church, Horowitz said he would coordinate with the IG for the Department of the Interior, which is also reviewing personnel response.
The act to clear the park – which came shortly before a city curfew went into effect – sparked outrage from critics who claim protesters were moved so the president could participate in a photo opportunity.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz and Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.