Portland asks US to rescind deputization of city police

City officials said they didn't realize their agreement to deputize city police as federal marshals would last for at least the rest of the year


By Everton Bailey Jr.
The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.

PORTLAND, Ore. — When city of Portland officials agreed last week to allow police officers to be deputized as federal marshals for the weekend, they didn’t realize that they were approving the designation to last for at least the rest of the year, according to the city attorney.

Now the city is asking the U.S. Attorney’s Office to remove the status from more than 50 officers who are part of a unit that typically responds to nightly protests. In a letter Tuesday to Suzanne Hayden, counsel to the U.S. Attorney, Portland City Attorney Tracy Reeve said the city was under the impression the status allowing officers to make arrests that could lead to federal charges ended this weekend after the combined response of city, county and state law enforcement to a Proud Boys rally and counter-demonstration.

Portland Police line around a van and drive away from protesters rallying at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Portland, Ore.
Portland Police line around a van and drive away from protesters rallying at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Allison Dinner)

“The City of Portland does not consent to the continuing federal deputization of (Portland Police Bureau) officers and hereby formally withdraws its consent to this deputization effective immediately,” Reeve wrote. “Please confirm at your earliest convenience that the deputization of all (Portland) officers has been terminated.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not respond to the city as of Tuesday evening, according to a spokesperson for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. The agency also did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The mayor’s office spokesperson said it’s unclear why the city wasn’t aware of the actual date when the deputization by the U.S. Marshals' Service ended. The city is under the impression the designation will end Dec. 31.

A U.S. Marshals' deputation lasts 12 months, according to the Justice Department manual. State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton didn’t specify a particular time frame in his request for Portland officers and Multnomah County deputies to be federally deputized, Capt. Tim Fox, a state police spokesperson, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Tuesday.

Wheeler in a statement said he has also personally asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon to remove the federal designation from city officers.

“A key feature of the designation is that anyone who assaults a federally deputized official could be subject to federal charges,” Wheeler said. “Fortunately, I am confident the Multnomah County District Attorney will continue to prosecute anyone who assaults or otherwise harms police officers or others.”

The officers were sworn in Saturday morning, prior to a Proud Boys rally in Delta Park, and a counter-demonstration in Peninsula Park. Gov. Kate Brown issued an emergency executive order putting them temporarily under the command of Hampton and Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese. The order was supposed to end after midnight Monday, but Brown announced she had ended the order early Sunday.

The federal status applied to 56 officers, sergeants and lieutenants from the bureau’s rapid response team. Reeve, in her email, said Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell sent a letter to the U.S. Marshals' Service on Friday approving of Hampton’s request to deputize Portland officers. She said it was sometime after that the city discovered the deputization and the governor’s executive order weren’t planned to end at the same time.

The federal designation was apparently a response to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s announcement in August that his office won’t prosecute cases involving protesters arrested on suspicion of violating only city ordinances or without evidence of intentional violence, threat of violence, theft or deliberate property damage.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and state police have been among several law enforcement agencies that have asserted there should be more penalties for people who are arrested on suspicion of committing violence during protests.

Whether Portland officers are deputized or not, they are still subject to the current city complaint and discipline process as well as Wheeler’s Sept. 10 order to not use CS gas, the mayor’s office said. He announced the order after three months of demands and lawsuits from the public that the city do so.

©2020 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)

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