Portland passes resolution to limit actions of local police deputized as federal officers
The measure orders that the 56 police officers, federally deputized amid civil unrest, only make arrests under state or local law
By Maxine Bernstein
PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland’s City Council Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution that seeks to restrict the actions of the 56 Portland police officers who were deputized as special deputy U.S. marshals through the end of the year over the city’s objections.
Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty introduced the measure, which reinforces an earlier order by the mayor directing the local police deputized as federal officers to only make arrests under state or local law.
It further says any Portland police officer “shall not take any order, directive or assignment” from any federal agent or official for purposes of crowd control or demonstration responses, unless the governor were to issue another executive order for city police to operate under a future unified command with other agencies.
“We do not want to see dozens, hundreds of Portlanders who are exercising their freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech be arrested and charged with bogus federal crimes," said Derrick Bradley, Hardesty’s policy director.
Yet the resolution doesn’t prevent federal prosecutors from pursuing cases in federal court stemming from an alleged assault on a Portland officer who has been deputized as a federal officer.
The first defendant facing such a prosecution appeared in federal court on Monday – an 18-year-old Hillsboro man accused of jabbing the tip of an umbrella into a Portland police Rapid Response Team officer near the federal immigration enforcement building in South Portland in early October.
The city of Portland is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over the federal deputization of city police officers. Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams and U.S. Marshal Russ Berger have refused to lift the enhanced federal designation for the local police, saying it serves as a deterrent to violence against officers.
Oregon State Police Supt. Travis Hampton had sought the designation for the Portland officers on the weekend of Sept. 26, prior to the Proud Boys rally in North Portland. It lasts through the end of the year.
“It is terrifying that we’ve gotten to the point where our city police officers are now unconstitutionally enforcing federal law, simply to allow for greater punishment for those protesters expressing their rights,” said Franz Bruggemeier, an attorney at the Oregon Justice Resource Center.
Bruggemeier and several others who addressed the City Council urged the resolution to go further and require the deputized local police be placed on desk duty during protests until the designation is lifted.
He alleged the officers have been given the federal powers to serve as “legal stormtroopers of a wannabe strong man who has no understanding of American government or basic democracy.”
Kristin Gross, who also testified in support of the measure, called the deputization of local officers a way of circumventing the Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who has declined to prosecute certain low-level offenses resulting from protest arrests, such as interfering with police or disorderly conduct.
Back the Blue PDX activist Shelby Walman was the lone person to speak against the resolution. He said officers and their families are being threatened and questioned, "When are elected officials going to represent every Portlander?''
Hardesty added an amendment to the resolution, which restates current law that prohibits police from collecting or maintaining people’s social, political or religious affiliations without suspicion of criminal conduct.
Wheeler said he wasn’t consulted but should have been before the local officers received the federal deputization. He voted in support of the resolution, though he added that he’s not sure "it adds anything of import to the decisions.''
The mayor said he understands that in limited circumstances there may be reasons for local police to be deputized with federal authority for a limited duration, “but before that decision is made, we need to understand the need for it, and ultimately we have to make that decision.”
(c)2020 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)