The Portland Police Bureau has canceled days off for its officers on Election Day. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office is stepping up patrols at ballot drop boxes and election headquarters, and the Oregon State Police said they are available to assist both agencies if needed.
That is according to the leaders of the three agencies, who gathered in Waterfront Park on Thursday for a briefing on election security planning.
“We realize here that this election season could prompt people to be upset or excited about election results,” said Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell. “We encourage people to exercise their First Amendment rights, but to do so safely. We realize there may be mass gatherings or things of that nature. We’re supportive of that, but what we want to ask is that people don’t engage in criminal activity or harmful behavior.”
Lovell, OSP Superintendent Terri Davie, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese and Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Scmidt each gave assurances that their respective agencies were working together, and were committed to ensure a safe election and aftermath. Reese said there are no identifiable threats directed toward the election at this time.
After foreign interference roiled the 2016 election, election security has once again become a major issue this year, this time with a domestic component. President Trump has repeatedly, and falsely, called into question the security of vote by mail and has encouraged his supporters to patrol polling sites across the country, an illegal voter intimidation tactic. In Philadelphia, the Trump campaign has been videotaping ballot drop boxes, a move Pennsylvania’s Attorney General has described as illegal voter intimidation.
“I want to be really clear that voter intimidation, disruption, blocking access to ballot drop sites, preventing people from casting their ballots, any violence before or after the election will not be tolerated,” Reese said.
Many of the specifics on how law enforcement intends to do that remain in question. The last time the three agencies worked together was for a September far right rally. Gov. Kate Brown placed the state police and the sheriff’s office in charge of a unified command for that rally, partly to get around limitations on Portland police’s crowd control response.
Four days out from Election Day, the command structure for response to protests remains undecided. OSP Superintendent Davie said one reason the command structure hasn’t been finalized is because the agencies are still working to determine the level of response that will be needed.
Lovell said that while specifics are being discussed, the bureau is prepared to do its job without controversial crowd control measures such as tear gas. That isn’t the case for state police troopers.
“That is a tool and a resource the state police does have,” Davie said. “Depending on what the circumstances are or the situation, it is something that the state police have the ability to deploy.”