PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon State Police on Thursday revealed that it would withdraw its complement of officers deployed in the city of Portland. The detachment came to Oregon's largest city in beginning of August under an agreement with Governor Kate Brown to fill the vacuum left by federal law enforcement officers from the Department of Homeland Security.
OSP's officers were charged primarily with taking over protection of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse during continued nightly protests and flare-ups of violence or vandalism. While the departure of federal forces from downtown did largely shift the flash-point of protests away from the courthouse, it did not mark the end of violence in Portland over the following two weeks, with frequent clashes taking place outside of the Portland Police Association offices.
(Photo courtesy Doug Brown / ACLU of Oregon)
"This decision was based on the fact that our two week commitment ended last night," an OSP spokesperson said in a statement. "Troopers are returning to the communities that they are assigned to serve and protect. We will continually assess our resources if our partners at PPB need OSP assistance."
Newly-elected Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said Tuesday that he would halt the prosecution of misdemeanor charges stemming from Portland protests and subsequent riots, unless the charges directly involved acts of violence or vandalism. Among free speech concerns, Schmidt cited a backlog of unprocessed cases at the DA's office due to COVID-19.
Based on previous statements from both city and federal authorities, law enforcement officers have arrested a number of people at the Portland protests for allegedly assaulting officers, starting fires, or vandalizing property. However, many people — likely the majority — have been arrested on misdemeanor charges for refusing to obey the orders of law enforcement officers, such as orders to disperse.
Under Schmidt's policy, those misdemeanor arrests would not be prosecuted.
Schmidt's comments appear to have drawn the ire of OSP, though it's unclear if this affected the agency's decision to end its bolstered presence in Portland.
"The Oregon State Police is continually reassessing our resources and the needs of our partner agencies and at this time we are inclined to move those resources back to counties where prosecution of criminal conduct is still a priority," the agency said.
Governor Kate Brown said in a Facebook post that the OSP withdrawal had been "planned for the last two weeks."
"I would like to thank the hardworking OSP troopers who have been away from their homes and families for the last two weeks, keeping the peace in Portland with professionalism, just as they do in their home communities all across Oregon," Brown said.
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan joined the conversation on Friday, issuing a statement urging Governor Brown to "intervene" in Portland — joining OSP in taking aim at Schmidt's policy, saying that it sets "an incredibly dangerous precedent."
"I urge Governor Kate Brown to step in and use her executive authority to appoint a special prosecutor," Rep. Drazan said. "It is time for the Governor to stand up for the enforcement of Oregon’s laws and ensure the prosecution of those who have harmed the cause of equality.”
A full statement from Oregon State Police may be read below.
The Oregon State Police is continually reassessing our resources and the needs of our partner agencies and at this time we are inclined to move those resources back to counties where prosecution of criminal conduct is still a priority
This decision was based on the fact that our two week commitment ended last night... Troopers are returning to the communities that they are assigned to serve and protect.
We will continually assess our resources if our partners at PPB need OSP assistance.
The Oregon State Police was honored to be assigned by the Governor to provide security for to the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse- with the goal of slowing the nightly clashes between the community and federal officers. We entered into a two week policing commitment, routing large numbers of resources to Portland from all over the state- many at the cost to rural communities.
Policing large crowd events that routinely turn violent is one of the most challenging aspects of law enforcement, but our troopers met the challenge nightly with our colleagues at the Portland Police Bureau and Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. Our troopers sustained frequent injury and handled the most difficult of circumstances with restraint and professionalism, in service to the citizens and visitors of Portland.
The OSP Troopers assigned to this event demonstrated the best traditions of the agency's commitment to service, however, our initial commitment to the City of Portland has concluded and it is time we integrate this valuable resource back to their respective communities.
OSP will always be here for Portland, as we have for decades and I'll continue to assess subsequent resource demands with the Portland Police Bureau Chief, whom I have a great deal of respect for and a strong working relationship.