Portland mayor spars with US on deputized police officers

Oregon's top U.S. prosecutor rejected a request from Portland's mayor to end federal deputation of dozens of state and local police officers


By Maxine Bernstein
The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The U.S. Marshal won’t cancel the federal deputization of certain Portland police, state troopers and Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies, saying it serves as an important deterrent to violence during protests and helps protect officers.

“Importantly, the federal deputation supports front line law enforcement officers and their families in a way that they have not seen from City Hall,” according to a joint statement from Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams and U.S. Marshal Russ Burger.

The Portland Police declared the protest a riot after multiple Molotov cocktails were thrown from the crowd in the direction of the police.
The Portland Police declared the protest a riot after multiple Molotov cocktails were thrown from the crowd in the direction of the police. (Photo/Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian)

"Portlanders, and Oregonians in general are sick of the boarded-up and dangerous conditions prevalent in downtown Portland due to a lack of leadership.  We call upon citizens of this city and state to denounce violence, demand accountability, and work together to end the violence.”

The deputization of Portland’s 56 officers and the 22 sheriff’s deputies will last until Dec. 31, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Early Saturday, the U.S. Marshals Service deputized 56 officers assigned to the Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Teams as special deputy marshals just hours before the right-wing Proud Boys rallied in North Portland’s Delta Park while left-wing counter-demonstrators gathered in other city parks.

The riot-clad rapid response officers typically are called in to disperse crowds once police declare a riot or unlawful assembly. They are armed with impact munitions including stun grenades and foam-tipped rounds.

Oregon State Police Supt. Travis Hampton had requested the federal powers for the officers as he was tapped by Gov. Kate Brown to lead the police response to the weekend rallies along with Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese under an emergency executive order.

The deputizing automatically lasts one year, according to federal rule. The state troopers who were deputized earlier this summer will have their federal status last one year, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Asphaug.

Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Attorney Tracey Reeve on Tuesday urged the U.S. attorney to drop the federal designation for Portland officers, saying they thought the federal status would last only through the weekend.

“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.”

Later Tuesday night, the mayor told a community meeting that the city was withdrawing its consent for the deputization of Portland officers. Wheeler said Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt will prosecute assaults against police officers “so there’s no justification for the continuity of that deputization.”

Wheeler said he and the Police Bureau were under the assumption that the deputization was for the extent of the governor’s emergency order, which expired Monday morning. Asked if the deputization can continue without the city’s consent, Wheeler said Tuesday night he did not believe so.

Hampton countered Wednesday morning, urging Williams to maintain the federal designation as a “protection'' to the Portland officers in the face of “violent opportunists" who seek to harm them.

“Having the accountability measures in place, like federal designation as a U.S. Marshal, is a responsible protection to the men and women that are serving our communities,” Hampton wrote to Williams. “OSP Troopers will not serve the City of Portland in any capacity that needlessly endangers them or their colleagues. I call upon Oregon’s U.S. Attorney to leave this measure of accountability in place for all agency crowd control units serving in Portland, so violent offenders that harm police officers will face the maximum consequence afforded by Oregon and Federal law.”

Hampton didn’t specify a particular time frame in his request for Portland officers and Multnomah County deputies to be deputized, state police spokesman Capt. Tim Fox told The Oregonian/OregonLive. On Saturday, 22 Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies also received the federal status.

The designation allows federal prosecutors to bring allegations of assault on a federal officer if the deputized officers face attacks from demonstrators, including thrown fireworks, rocks, bottles or other objects. Federal offenses typically carry a stiffer sentence.

Without the designation, federal prosecutors still have selected certain cases to pursue in federal court after local police have arrested people on state charges during the protests.

Of 91 cases pending in federal court from protests over the last four months, 39 people face allegations of assault on a federal officer and 11 people face a civil disorder charge, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

About 50 members of the Oregon State Police mobile field force, the state agency’s crowd control squad, also were deputized as federal officers earlier this summer when the governor sent in state police on July 30 to take over security of the exterior of the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse for two weeks. The move allowed squads of federal officers to retreat into the courthouse and state troopers to respond to any problems outside the courthouse or in the streets around it.

©2020 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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