PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers assigned to help the Portland Police Bureau with its response to the city's nightly protests have been cross-deputized by the federal government.
The move actually happened earlier this summer, when state troopers were brought in to help facilitate the departure of federal officers from downtown Portland, according to Gov. Kate Brown's deputy communications director. But the cross-deputization of OSP troopers could allow state police to bypass the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office entirely when it comes to charges against arrested protesters.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt has said he won't prosecute protesters arrested for lesser offenses, like interfering with a police officer or ignoring police orders to clear the streets. Schmidt released a single statement on Wednesday when asked by KGW if he had a response to the cross-deputization of OSP troopers.
"We continue to prioritize public safety resources in Multnomah County by focusing on the violent crimes occurring at protests and in our community, including the recent and alarming increase in gun violence this summer," Schmidt said.
Willamette University law professor Paul Diller said it wll be interesting to see the full list of federal charges now at state troopers' disposal when making arrests related to the unrest, but he expects it will make for more arrests for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"I don’t know what it means for DA Schmidt but what it does mean is it’s an attempt by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute more of the crimes they see occurring," said Diller.
In July, Federal officers made arrests for a variety of charges, including trespassing on federal property, arson, assaulting federal officers, failing to comply with a lawful order and creating a disturbance.
On Sunday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called on state police and nearby law enforcement departments to assist Portland police with the nightly protests. While OSP has said it will answer the call, the sheriff's offices in Clackamas County and Washington County and the Gresham Police Department have all said they won't send their deputies to help, citing Schmidt's prosecution policies as one of the reasons.
Last night on The Story with Dan Haggerty, KGW's Pat Dooris explained what the move to have the federal government deputize state troopers means for the protests in Portland going forward:
Dooris: This is basically the ground changing under the feet of the protesters. because when the state police come in and are cross-deputized by the [U.S. Marshals], they're able to make arrests under the federal law. And I'm told there is something similar to interfering with a police officer under the federal law. [Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt] will not prosecute someone for that charge, but the U.S. Attorney's Office has been much more aggressive at holding people accountable and prosecuting for all kinds of charges. So, I think you're going to see a lot more of that start to happen as soon as these officers arrive.
Haggerty: I'm getting a different vibe from the governor's plan. Yesterday it seemed like a more passive approach. We discussed how the last time federal officers or officers with federal power came in, things didn't go that great. The violence grew, the crowds grew, the protests grew. It seemed as though that wasn't going to be what we saw this time based on the governor's approach. But now I'm hearing this. How have things changed in your opinion there?
Dooris: Well, a couple of things. First, the state officers who came in to protect the [Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse] and get the federal agents out of there, I'm thinking they were likely cross-deputized then, and maybe it's the same group of folks. That's the first thing. The second thing is a much more aggressive thing, you're right, with them coming out now. I think the public is going to take it differently. because instead of having this perception of President Trump sending in a 'whole cadre of federal agents that are going to take over the city and teach those Democrats how to do things right,' instead these [state police officers] are the people that have grown up here. People know them. People generally have a very high respect for the state police. But they're also going to have these federal powers. They won't just stay at the federal court house by the way; they'll probably be all over the city wherever the protests are.
Charles Boyle, Brown's deputy communications director, confirmed to KGW that the federal deputization of state troopers happened earlier this summer.
"They are still Oregon State Police," Boyle said. "Some OSP troopers were federally deputized earlier this summer in order to be able to even enter the Hatfield Courthouse during their assignment downtown. They are committed to working with our community, with the goal of protecting free speech, keeping the peace, and keeping people safe as they exercise their right to peacefully protest."
Boyle said that the U.S. Attorney and Multnomah County District Attorney's Office work together each day to decide which protest arrest cases will be prosecuted.