The United States Attorney for Oregon, Billy Williams, said Wednesday that the Oregon State Police will remain federal deputies, despite Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s pleas.
Mayor Wheeler asked the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Department of Homeland Security to rescind the federal designation earlier this week, well before the designation is due to expire, out of concern that federal deputies could charge Portland’s protesters with federal crimes for assaulting officers, attacking federal buildings, and fomenting unrest.
The mayor’s office issued a statement noting that they’d “asked the U.S. Attorney’s office to withdraw the designation.”
“A key feature of the designation is that anyone who assaults a federally deputized official could be subject to federal charges,” the statement added, per Oregon Live. “Fortunately, I am confident the Multnomah County District Attorney will continue to prosecute anyone who assaults or otherwise harms police officers or others.”
Wheeler may have confidence in the Multnomah County District Attorney, but as the Daily Wire reported last month, the Department of Homeland Security deputized members of the Oregon State Police out of concern that the same District Attorney would not prosecute protesters arrested during Portland riots, especially if those individuals were charged with low-level offenses.
“The Multnomah County prosecutors office also said, back in early August, that if a person is arrested for ‘a misdemeanor or felony crime that causes only financial harm during a protest,’ they will be offered ‘conditional dismissal,’” the Daily Wire noted. The cross-deputization, then, “could allow state police to bypass the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office entirely when it comes to charges against arrested protesters.”
Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s office expanded the deputy program, out of concern that a planned double rally, with both far-right and far-left protesters, could get out of hand. Although the rally ultimately fizzled out, drawing just a few dozen demonstrators, the designation remains in effect for around 50 Oregon State Police officers, 22 Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputies, and 56 members of the Portland Police Department’s “Rapid Response” task force until the end of 2020, much to Wheeler’s dismay.
The Oregon State Police say they’re happy to keep the designation, given that it helps them “supply accountability to violent extremists” and gives the U.S. Attorney “increased prosecutorial discretion if rioters should assault an officer.”
The U.S. Attorney, Williams, said Wednesday that he has no plans to rescind the declaration.
“The federal deputation supports front line law enforcement officers and their families in a way that they have not seen from City Hall,” Williams said in a press conference, per OPB.com. “Portlanders and Oregonians, in general, are sick of the boarded-up and dangerous conditions prevalent in downtown Portland due to a lack of leadership.”
In late August, the Department of Justice announced that 74 individuals were facing federal charges stemming from a series of protests that targeted a federal courthouse building in downtown Portland. On Monday, the Trump administration announced that two more people were facing federal civil disorder charges stemming from various August and September confrontations with Oregon State Police, and two others were facing federal misdemeanor charges for flying drones into protected airspace.