Portland-area agencies say they won’t help police protests

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
Sept. 1, 2020 2:05 a.m. Updated: Sept. 1, 2020 4:59 a.m.

Three law enforcement agencies announced Monday they would decline Gov. Kate Brown’s invitation to assist Portland police with ongoing demonstrations.

A day after Gov. Kate Brown asked three law enforcement agencies to help out policing Portland’s nightly protests, all three said they won’t do it.

Brown’s plan, announced on the heels of a fatal Saturday shooting, asked for more law enforcement to “bring violence and arson to an end in Portland.” Part of the plan asked for the Gresham Police Department and the Sheriff’s offices in Clackamas and Washington counties to assist with demonstrations.


All three of the neighboring agencies are now declining.

Pro- Trump and pro-police demonstrators clashed with anti-fascist counterprotesters on the 87th day of protests against police violence and systemic racism. Despite violence in the streets, police were notably absent and never declared an unlawful assembly.

Pro- Trump and pro-police demonstrators clashed with anti-fascist counterprotesters on the 87th day of protests against police violence and systemic racism. Despite violence in the streets, police were notably absent and never declared an unlawful assembly.

Jonathan Levinson / OPB

“Increasing law enforcement resources in Portland will not solve the nightly violence and now, murder,” read a statement from Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts Monday afternoon.

Roberts added that he’d never been contacted about the plan by the Governor’s office. He pointed to a new policy by Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt as part of the reason for declining. Schmidt has said he will not prosecute low-level arrests made at Portland protests.

Half an hour later, a statement from the Washington County Sheriff’s office arrived:

“At this time, I do not plan to send deputies to work directly in Portland,” read the statement from Sheriff Pat Garrett. “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.”

Garrett wrote the sheriff’s office will continue to support the Portland police through “indirect ways,” such as air support and assisting with some criminal investigations.

After an inquiry from OPB as to whether they would be sending police to assist, Gresham Police Department said, simply, “We are not sending anybody.” The department later clarified it agreed with the statements from other agencies.

The Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and Oregon State Sheriff’s Association issued their own statement, saying the association’s members were approached to help out policing protests in Portland.


“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,” read the statement. “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.”

To bring an end to the nightly violence, the groups said they wanted to see “a strong statement” by elected leaders “that criminal acts are not legitimate protest and that those who commit crimes will be held accountable.”

The trio of releases came after a Sunday night announcement from the governor outlining “a unified law enforcement plan to protect free speech and bring violence and arson to an end in Portland.” It was intended to help the stretched-thin Portland Police force respond to the demonstrations, which have entered their fourth month.

“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,” Brown’s announcement said.

Asked about the apparent rebuke from law enforcement agencies the governor’s plan relies on, Brown spokesman Charles Boyle said Oregon State Police had contacted the local agencies about the governor’s proposal on Sunday.

“It is up to each county to determine the personnel and resources they have available to volunteer for this effort,” Boyle said. “We appreciate Clackamas County’s commitment to assist Oregon State Police with calls for service in Clackamas County while OSP is supporting the City of Portland, for example.”

Brown’s plan also called for Oregon State Police troopers to come into Portland. According to the release, the police will offer to share more than two-dozen body cameras with Portland police, who do not use them.

The statements Monday are not the first time Oregon law enforcement agencies have indicated disinterest in staffing protests in Portland.

Earlier this month, the state police announced they would be moving troopers out of downtown, where they had been protecting the federal courthouse from demonstrators. In doing so, the agency included a jab at Schmidt, the Multnomah County prosecutor.

“At this time we are inclined to move those resources back to counties where prosecution of criminal conduct is still a priority,” OSP Capt. Timothy Fox said at the time.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Monday that Brown had reached out to Schmidt before announcing her plan Sunday evening.

“We are supportive of Governor Brown’s efforts and we join her and others focused on bringing an end to the violence occurring in Portland while supporting the constitutional rights of everyone. Our office always remains committed to prosecuting criminal offenses such as arson and physical violence.”

OPB reporter Dirk VanderHart contributed to this story.