PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The officers of the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office who were federally deputized over the weekend ahead of a right-wing demonstration and counter-protests will retain their status through the end of the year, the agencies confirmed Monday.
Officers on PPB’s Rapid Response Team were deputized by the US Marshals Service on Saturday ahead of a Proud Boys rally that was organized at Delta Park. In total, 56 officers, sergeants, and lieutenants were sworn in. The status means that a Portland police officer can arrest someone for a federal crime and turn the case over to a federal prosecutor instead of a state or county prosecutor.
On Friday, Governor Kate Brown appointed the heads of Oregon State Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office as joint incident commanders of protests in Portland for the 48-hour period.
Ahead of the demonstrations, OSP Superintendent Travis Hampton said, “Portland Officers have been serving on the front lines of nightly protests for months, sustaining injuries and encountering unspeakable violence. If I am to send them into harm’s way this weekend on my authority, I’m going to ensure they have all the protections and authority of OSP Troopers. I want violent individuals thinking about the enhanced penalties they may face if they harm a PPB officer.”
On Saturday, members of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Rapid Response Team were deputized as well. The sheriff’s office later confirmed that the 22 deputies assigned to the task force would stay deputized until the end of the year.
On Sunday, Brown ended the joint incident command following the rally and thanked “Oregonians for not rising to the bait when the Proud Boys came from out of town to express their hateful views.”
She also addressed concerns of police use-of-force during a demonstration that happened outside the Justice Center later that same night and asked for each agency involved–OSP, MCSO, PPB–to “review any alleged incidents involving officers from each of their agencies during joint operations last night.”
KOIN 6 News reached out to the mayor’s office and the governor’s office, both responded with direction to contact the US Marshals Service. Federal officials confirmed the deputization and said they will review whether to extend it past the end of the year–beyond that they had no comment.
In August, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced that his office would not prosecute certain crimes stemming from the nightly protests in the city. Such crimes included Interfering with a Peace Officer and Disorderly Conduct–some of the most common charges demonstrators have been arrested for. With federally deputized officers in the Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team, arrests officers make can potentially bypass the local courts and go on to federal courts to pursue charges. Lewis and Clark law professor Tung Yin had more insight to this dynamic.
“It’s a little more complicated than saying, ‘Oh ,now they can enforce federal law and turn people over for prosecution that couldn’t been prosecuted before,'” said Yin. “It just simply streamlines it.”
“Now there is a direct pipeline because, as a deputized federal agent, you are already on that side of the arena, so to speak,” said Yin.
However, the situation is still complicated.
“In this situation, the officers are now wearing two hats: the state or local hat, and the federal hat,” explained Yin. “And I think what would become tricky is if they are doing things that are not forbidden by federal law but are forbidden by state law.”
A spokesperson for the US Attorney District of Oregon said, “The deputization will offer some assistance to federal authorities in bringing federal charges where appropriate, but should not be construed as a goal of more federal charges.”
“This is one of those things that, I think, carries some significance on the legal side of things, but maybe sounds more threatening than it really is,” concluded Yin.