Politics

Oregon Gov. Brown announces plans for stepped-up policing in Portland

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
Aug. 31, 2020 2:55 a.m.

The plan includes more involvement from federal authorities, along with assistance from state and county agencies.

Portland will see a stepped-up presence of federal, state and local law enforcement resources in coming days, as the state looks to help the city quell unrest that included a man being killed Saturday night.

In a statement Sunday evening, Gov. Kate Brown announced what she called “a unified law enforcement plan to protect free speech and bring violence and arson to an end in Portland.” The proposal is aimed at helping Portland police respond to demonstrations for racial justice that have played out for more than 90 days, as well as recent counter-demonstrations from far-right groups that have led to violent clashes.

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“With months of nightly protests stretching the Portland Police Bureau’s resources thin, additional local and state personnel, as well as federal resources, will give the Police Bureau the investigative capacity to arrest and charge those individuals who have engaged in violent or destructive acts and endangered public safety,” the announcement said.

A pro-Trump caravan winds its way through downtown Portland clashing with counterprotesters on August 30, 2020. Towards the end of the caravan, a man who was believed to be associated with the caravan was shot and killed.

A pro-Trump caravan winds its way through downtown Portland clashing with counterprotesters on August 30, 2020. Towards the end of the caravan, a man who was believed to be associated with the caravan was shot and killed.

Jonathan Levinson / Jonathan Levinson

Under the plan, Brown’s office will detail Oregon State Police troopers to Portland, in order to help “free up” local police to investigate violent actions. The state police also are offering to share more than two-dozen body cameras with Portland police, who don’t currently use them.

Brown is proposing to bring in manpower from neighboring jurisdictions, as well. That includes the Clackamas and Washington county sheriff’s offices, and the Gresham Police Department, which Brown has asked to help assist with demonstrations.

Notably, the plan includes “additional resources” from both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S Attorney’s Office. Involvement of federal forces in policing demonstrations has been a flashpoint in Portland since July, when President Donald Trump increased the federal presence in the city, ramping up tensions.

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Portland police have said months of nightly demonstrations have sapped them of the resources they need to adequately supervise those events.

Brown’s plan comes with pledges from Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese to keep space free in the county jail to keep “individuals booked for violent behavior,” and a commitment from Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt to prosecute offenses such as arson and physical violence.

Finally, the governor plans to convene a forum on policing that includes racial justice demonstrators and Mayor Ted Wheeler, who has been an increasing subject of their ire.

City and state officials have grappled for months with how to appropriately respond to protests against police violence that frequently include a small number of protesters destroying property and lobbing objects at police.

But those protests have taken on a new tension in recent days, as counter-demonstrators arrive in the city and open brawls between the two factions playing out on streets and sidewalks. Brown’s announcement comes a day after a man affiliated with a right-wing group, Patriot Prayer, was fatally shot in downtown Portland following a Trump rally.

In her announcement, Brown emphasized the increasing presence of groups like Patriot Prayer, whose members have clashed repeatedly with other groups in Portland, and whom Brown said arrived in Portland on Saturday “armed and looking for a fight.”

“Every Oregonian has the right to freely express their views without fear of deadly violence,” Brown said in a statement. “I will not allow Patriot Prayer and armed white supremacists to bring more bloodshed to our streets.”

Brown’s announcement also comes after a day in which Trump has trained his attention on Portland, and particularly Wheeler. In a barrage of tweets Sunday, the president accused Wheeler of being “incompetent” and “wacky” and “a FOOL.” Trump has repeatedly called on Oregon officials to take a far harder line in cracking down on demonstrators and has suggested he might send more federal law enforcement to the city.

Local officials, meanwhile, have blamed the president for fueling the division and hatred they say led to Saturday’s bloodshed.

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