The Justice Department’s inner watchdog confirmed Thursday that he had started investigations to determine whether federal officers used excessive force against protesters in Portland, Oregon, as well as how federal authorities handled protests near the White House last month.
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Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said he had work with the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general on an investigation on specific use-of-force incidents by federal agents responding to protests in Portland, which have drawn national scrutiny in recent days.
Horowitz said he would examine the overall federal response both in Portland and in Washington, D.C., since the police killing of George Floyd in late May. Federal agents from a variety of law enforcement components, under the close watch of Attorney General William Barr, deployed chemical munitions against peaceful protesters in Washington’s Lafayette Square ahead of Trump’s photo-op in front of a church.
A vast array of unidentified federal agents from various law enforcement components also responded to the unrest in Washington, including federal prison guards with no previous training on how to handle crowds outside of a detention scenario.
“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,” the inspector general’s office said in a statement.
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In the case of Lafayette Square, the inspector general would coordinate with the inspector general at the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Park Police officers involved in the aggressive law enforcement response in Lafayette Square.