Portland, OR – The Multnomah County district attorney has refused to file charges in 12 cases involving allegations Portland police used excessive force against rioters during months of nightly violent uprisings last year.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s office had a total of 21 cases off under review due to allegations police used excessive force and stole property from demonstrators during various protests in 2020, according to prosecutorial memos reviewed by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Some of the cases were drudged up by prosecutors who combed through civil lawsuits and social media posts to find instances in which police might have used excessive force, according to the memos.
“The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office became aware of some of those incidents through complaints received directly, civil lawsuits filed against the city of Portland, social media posts, circulating videos, and referrals from plaintiff’s attorneys,” one memo read, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Schmidt announced on Sept. 3 that 12 of those cases have been closed without charges being filed against any officers.
Prosecutors determined that no crime was committed in some of the cases, while others were closed due to a lack of cooperation from alleged victims and attorneys, or because the accused officers could not be identified, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Alleged victims or their attorneys refused to participate in eight of the investigations, resulting in their closures, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
“The law is on a police officer’s side in doing their job, they can use force,” Schmidt told the news outlet. “So, for us, the analysis is: Is the use of force not allowed by law? Is it so excessive that we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are not allowed to use that amount of force?”
Under state law, such cases must be evaluated from the perspective of the officer, he explained.
“What we would have to prove in court is that [the officer’s] perception of what was going on is completely inaccurate and that what [the officer] was doing was not justified,” Schmidt added.
He said he closed the 12 cases because he knew his office would not be able to prove them in court.
“Generally, state law provides protections from criminal liability to peace officers when using force to effectuate an arrest or in self-defense, actions that are part of their sworn and authorized duty to the public,” Deputy District Attorney Nicole Hermann wrote in one Aug. 13 memo, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Eight cases remain under investigation and could result in criminal charges, Schmidt told the news outlet.
Several of the alleged excessive force incidents have resulted in civil lawsuits against the City of Portland, the Portland Mercury reported.