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Independent Police Review

Providing independent, civilian oversight of the Portland Police Bureau

phone: 503-823-0146

fax: 503-823-4571

1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 140, Portland, OR 97204

Why is Kettling Controversial?

The Independent Police Review is currently conducting a re-investigation of an ongoing 2014 case involving the use of a crowd control tactic commonly known as “Kettling.” The word kettling is in itself debatable, and can also be known as a "Box-In" or "Containment." The Portland Police Bureau first used the approach in 2014 at a “die-in” demonstration protesting the death of Michael Brown. Kettling is utilized by both domestic and international police departments and occurs when police officers surround protesters and then keep them in a certain place until it is decided that they are free to leave. “Kettles” can vary greatly in size, containing upwards of hundreds of people to as little as a dozen.

Kettling is controversial for a number of reasons. One of the most pressing concerns involves the mass detention of bystanders who were not involved in any disruptive activity. People can also be held for hours without food or water in a crowded and uncomfortable position. There is a continuing legal debate as to whether protesters who are “kettled” are under arrest, being temporarily detained, or being held in constructive custody. There is also a fundamental disagreement between those who believe that kettling deescalates a potentially violent situation and those who feel that it can exacerbate feelings of discontent within a population that is already experiencing heightened emotions. Additionally, the tactic can be seen as an officer safety issue due to the fact that officers must enclose protesters at very close proximity and can quickly become overwhelmed and outnumbered. The Portland Police Bureau has not used kettling since the incident in question in 2014.

Photo credit: Angali Cadambi