Sheriffs Decline to Support Gov’s Plan for Curbing Portland Violence

One day after releasing her “unified law enforcement plan” to bring the months of nightly violence in Portland to an end, Governor Kate Brown’s strategy has already hit a snag.

A key aspect of the plan Brown released on Sunday — one day after a conservative activist was shot and killed by a suspect who has reportedly identified as antifa — was the cooperation of the Clackamas and Washington County Sheriff’s Offices to “support the Portland Police Bureau with personnel and resources to keep the peace and protect free speech.”

This, evidently, came as a surprise to the sheriffs of Clackamas and Washington counties, both of whom said on Monday they have no interest in involving their officers in the protests in Portland — citing hostility and lack of public support for law enforcement.

Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said the governor never reached out to him about her plan or the role she hoped his office might play in it. The governor’s plan involved, among other things, an increased police presence at protests and more arrests.

“Had Governor Brown discussed her plan with my office, I would have told her it’s about changing policy, not adding resources,” Roberts said. “Increasing law enforcement resources in Portland will not solve the nightly violence and now, murder. The only way to make Portland safe again is to support a policy that holds offenders accountable for their destruction and violence.”

The current policy in effect by Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt is to not pursue many of the charges against demonstrators, including disorderly conduct, interfering with a police officer and even, in some circumstances, rioting. Roberts said that even those who face charges are not being held, but instead released on their own recognizance.

To effect change, the sheriff said, arrestees must be released on bail only if they meet certain conditions (which he did not specify).

“The same offenders are arrested night after night, only to be released by the court and not charged with a crime by the DA’s office,” Roberts said. “The next night they are back at it, endangering the lives of law enforcement and the community all over again. For all of us in law enforcement, keeping our community safe is our first priority.”

No amount of human resources will stop the nightly “cycle of violence” (a phrase the governor has used) that is making Portland unsafe, Sheriff Roberts concluded. Only a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable will do that, he said.

Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett also released a statement Monday afternoon, saying he would support Portland police in “indirect ways,” but he, too, would not be sending deputies to staff protests.

“The lack of political support for public safety, the uncertain legal landscape, the current volatility combined with intense scrutiny on use of force presents an unacceptable risk if deputies were deployed directly,” he said.

While the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office will not be sending staff into Portland, they will assist the Oregon State Police with calls for service in Clackamas County, as needed, while OSP’s resources are deployed elsewhere.

The Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) and Oregon State Sheriff’s Association (OSSA) also released a statement Monday saying that its member agencies would not assist with the governor’s “unified law enforcement plan.” (Brown’s original plan had also called for the assistance of the Gresham Police Department, in addition to the sheriff’s offices.)

“Unfortunately, due to the lack of support for public safety operations, the associated liability to agencies who would be assisting in Portland and the lack of accountability for those arrested committing criminal acts, we cannot dedicate our limited resources away from the communities we serve,” the statement read in part. “We know there will already be an additional burden on local law enforcement agencies as Oregon State Police Troopers are re-assigned to assist in Portland.”

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