Oregon Riots & Fires — First Responders & Their Families Speak Out

In the past few weeks we talked with former first responders from across Oregon.  Some were angry, some were frustrated, but all were united in their view that our police officers, firefighters and medical first responders need our support now more than ever.

With the ongoing protests and civil unrest, police officers have become a lightning rod for people’s desire for change all while trying to do their jobs in a charged environment.  In Portland, the District Attorney’s dismissal of charges for the overwhelming majority of arrested protesters is at odds with the enforcement of the law. And according to one recently retired Portland police officer, “Disrupts the ability of police officers on the street to be effective.”

In fact, this approach by Portland’s elected leaders is emboldening violent rioters.

These rioters are “extremely violent” and there is a definite “criminal element that is well coordinated” according to the retired officer who witnessed the mayhem in person.  “They are specifically targeting, attacking, & injuring police.”

One tool police have is federalization to be able to arrest rioters for federal law violations.  This officer shared that federalization is not a new tool, it has been commonly used in the past but now it has become “highly politicized.”

A retired fire official from Clackamas County voiced his concern that the civil unrest is the result of our society “drifting away from our founding principles”.  He expressed alarm that extremists are negatively impacting our communities and that the media aren’t reporting the “whole picture”.

With his crisis intervention training, he helps first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder. He said that for police officers “the pressure and stress is there all the time,” and that a major contributing factor is that they have to make split-second life and death decisions on a regular basis.

One frontline emergency physician shared that our police officers “Really need our thank yous” right now and that the “spouses of first responders are just as important” as our police officers, firefighters, and medical front line workers, who put their lives on the line for us every day.

When asked what has changed since he served, one retired Medford police officer shared that the community is not supporting their police like they should.  He felt he had the “complete and total support of the Medford community” unlike the lack of support shown to police officers now.

One high ranking former Portland Police officer said the same thing.  He said he is witnessing “zero support” for officers who are “decimated, disappointed, really struggling and are under attack” every day.  He expressed that police are on the receiving end of society’s problems – drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness and the failures of our education system.

While all of the unrest is going on in Portland and other cities around Oregon, other parts of the state are experiencing horrible loss to forest fires.

A wife and mother of several Portland firefighters said she is “grateful and thankful for everybody” working to protect Oregonians in their communities from the wildfires.  “I’m heartbroken and very disappointed” at the ongoing protesting and rioting in Portland.

One former emergency medical technician from Clackamas voiced his thoughts about what he thought might be causing the wildfires burning through Oregon’s forests. Having worked in the timber industry as well, this individual expressed frustration at what he thinks is the mismanagement of our state and federal timberlands, “The undergrowth build-up is a crime!”.  Not allowing the removal of undergrowth from our forests helps turn them into tinderbox timebombs and first responders are then called to put their life at risk to fix the mistake our government made.

These Oregonians all agreed that our first responders need our cooperation, support and appreciation for their work in serving us during the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion of intense wildfires we are experiencing.