PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The top U.S. prosecutor in Oregon on Wednesday rejected a request from Portland’s mayor to end the federal deputation of dozens of police officers as part of the response to ongoing protests, saying it was the only way to end “lawlessness.”
In a joint statement, U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams and Russ Berger, the U.S. marshal in the state, swatted down Mayor Ted Wheeler’s request and called him out for a “lack of leadership” that they said has allowed acts of violence to overshadow more than four months of nearly nightly protests since the death of George Floyd.
Wheeler said Tuesday that he had asked the U.S. attorney’s office to withdraw the designation that deputized the officers.
Deputizing the Portland officers gives federal prosecutors the option to charge anyone arrested by those officers with federal crimes, which often come with more severe penalties than the state crimes for which local police usually make arrests.
It also allows law enforcement a route around Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s decision not to file state charges against hundreds of protesters arrested for lower-level and non-violent offenses, a policy that has angered some in the law enforcement community.
Portland has seen protests almost every night since Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Many of them have ended with some protesters vandalizing police and other government buildings, setting fires, shining lasers into the eyes of police and throwing objects at officers.
Last week, violence reached a new level when protesters hurled three firebombs into a line of advancing police officers.
Wheeler has declined offers of assistance from federal law enforcement and Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, has declined to call up the National Guard. Trump sent U.S. agents from the Department of Homeland Security to guard a federal courthouse in July, setting of two weeks of intense protests and clashes with federal authorities in a two-block area of downtown.
Those agents withdrew in late July, however, after a deal brokered by Brown that saw Oregon State Police take over crowd control.
Statement Regarding Deputation of State and Local Law Enforcement Officers
U.S. Attorney's Office - District of Oregon - 09/30/20 2:31 PM
PORTLAND, Ore.— Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, and Russ Burger, U.S. Marshal for the District of Oregon, provide the below statement on ongoing violence in Portland:
The U.S. Marshal will not cancel the cross-deputation of local and state law enforcement officers. Law enforcement and law-abiding citizens of Portland have endured months of nightly criminal violence and destruction. Officers have been repeatedly assaulted with bottles, bats, sledgehammers, lasers, rocks, and other weapons of convenience. In addition, the public has seen repeated efforts by criminals to burn down public buildings. These violent, senseless, and criminal acts have no bearing on social justice. They only serve to exacerbate lawlessness in this city. Federal cross-deputation of Oregon State Police, Multnomah County Sheriff and Portland Police Bureau personnel underscores the importance of providing accountability and deterrence for these criminal acts. Importantly, the federal deputation supports front line law enforcement officers and their families in a way that they have not seen from City Hall. 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.
Billy J. Williams Russ Burger
United States Attorney United States Marshal
District of Oregon District of Oregon