Portland, OR – Hundreds of rioters arrested during the violent uprisings that have taken place in Portland over the past 75 days will be given a free pass under a new policy unveiled by the district attorney’s office on Tuesday.
Rioters have repeatedly attacked federal, state, and local law enforcement officers with explosive devices, rocks, ball bearings, golf balls, and other projectiles during the nightly chaos.
They have blocked traffic on countless streets, looted and torched businesses, destroyed historic landmarks, and repeatedly attempted to burn down police precincts, the federal courthouse, and the Police Protective Association building, among others.
At least 11 officers have been injured in various attacks since Friday night alone.
The rioting and looting have also cost local businesses tens of millions of dollars.
“Many of the people who have been arrested at these protests for low level offenses come to us with little to no prior criminal history, and we have little to no reason to believe they will re-offend,” newly-elected Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced on Aug. 11, according to KATU.
Under Schmidt’s new policy, prosecutors will “presumptively decline to charge” all offenses of disorderly conduct, interference with a police officer, escape, harassment, and criminal trespass.
Rioting charges will also be dismissed “unless accompanied by a charge outside of” the aforementioned offenses, he wrote.
Cases of assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest will be “subjected to a high level of scrutiny” by prosecutors, with special consideration to be “given to the chaos of a protesting environment, especially after tear gas or other less-lethal munitions have been deployed against protesters en masse,” according to the policy.
Schmidt further directed deputy attorneys to consider whether or not the person charged was “in pain, or unable to hear, breathe or see at the moment the resistance occurred,” when deciding whether or not to pursue resisting arrest and assault on a peace officer cases.
With regards to resisting arrest cases, officers’ level of force must also be considered, as well as whether police made “any reasonable available attempt to de-escalate” before they made the arrest, according to the policy change.
Prosecutors who still wish to pursue assault on a peace officer or resisting arrest cases can only do so with a supervisor’s approval.
Schmidt’s office will also be doling out presumptive “conditional dismissals” in felony and misdemeanor cases which involved “financial but not physical harm to another person,” according to the policy.
Such offenses include many criminal mischief, theft, and burglary offenses.
If offenders pay victims for the damages they caused within three months’ time, or if “other amends to the community are made,” then their cases will qualify for dismissal, according to the policy.
“Where immigration consequences are or may be implicated, line prosecutors will discuss resolutions with their supervisor prior to extending a conditional dismissal offer,” Schmidt noted.
The district attorney’s office will handle “all other offenses, including those that allege acts of physical violence against civilians,” according to “general office policies,” he said.
Schmidt claimed that the riots have been the result of people’s “collective grief, anger, and frustration” over the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as “the countless other abuses People of Color have endured in our country throughout history.”
He said that prosecuting “peaceful protesters” would “undermine public safety, not promote it.”
“The prosecution of cases relating solely to protest activities, most of which have a weak nexus to further criminality and which are unlikely to be deterred by prosecution, draws away from crucially needed resources,” Schmidt continued.
“As stewards of public resources, we must devote our efforts to prosecuting crimes that allow us to protect our most vulnerable victims to have the greatest impact on promoting a safer community for everyone,” he added.
About 550 cases have been referred to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office since May 29, KATU reported.
Approximately 130 of those cases involved felony offenses, while 313 involved misdemeanor interfering with a police officer charges.
Schmidt defended his policy on Tuesday, and denied that it was giving a “free pass” to rioters, KATU reported.
“This is not a free pass. While I will do what I can to provide protesters with a forum to make their voices heard, I will not tolerate deliberate acts of violence against police or anyone else,” he claimed.
Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Chief Chuck Lovell said that his department would prefer not to have to make any arrests, but that they must also “maintain the peace and promote public safety,” KATU reported.
“Some people use the gatherings as an opportunity to commit crimes,” Chief Lovell said. “The arrests we make often come after hours of damage to private property, disruption of public transit and traffic on public streets, thefts from small businesses, arson, burglary, attacks on members of the community, and attacks against police officers.”
Citizens tell him “how tired they are of the nightly violence” on a daily basis, he said.
“As always, whether the District Attorney decides to charge cases we send to his office is up to him,” the chief noted. “The Portland Police Bureau will continue to do the job the community expects of us, and will continue to reach out to all people to connect and build trusting relationships.”
He also commended his officers for their dedication and service.
“Portland Police officers put themselves in harm’s way daily as public servants,” Chief Lovell wrote. “They are professional and dedicated. I am proud to be their Chief and I am proud of their commitment to serving, and protecting our community.”