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DOJ Looking Into Possibly Charging Portland City Officials Over Riot Response

Portland, OR – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been researching the possibility of pursuing civil or criminal charges against Portland city leaders in the wake of over 100 nights of violent clashes between rioters and law enforcement officers, DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said on Thursday.

Kupec said that the DOJ has been looking into how Portland city officials “were handling – or not handling,” the violent uprisings that have caused tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage to the downtown area, FOX News reported.

Kupec declined to comment regarding whether or not charges will actually be filed, and would not specify any particular city officials who the DOJ might be focusing on.

On Thursday, the DOJ also disputed news reports alleging the U.S. Attorney General William Barr told prosecutors to look into possibly charging Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for allowing rioters to take over six square blocks of the downtown area for over three weeks earlier this summer in order to establish their so-called Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) “autonomous zone,” FOX News reported.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler did not respond to a request for comment on the revelation that the DOJ has been exploring the possibility of bringing charges against city officials, FOX News reported.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly accosted liberal city leaders throughout the nation for allowing rioters to wreak havoc and to attack federal, state, and local law enforcement officers.

The President recently referred to Wheeler as a “wacky Radical Left Do Nothing Democrat Mayor, and said that the city of Portland “will never recover with a fool for a Mayor,” FOX News reported.

Over 100 rioters have been arrested on federal charges in Portland since the violence began.

Wheeler announced in a video on Sept. 10 that he still expects the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) to restore order and arrest criminals, but that they will need to come up with a different way to stop rioters from killing them or Portland citizens rather than deploying CS gas.

“We must stand together as a community against violence and for progress,” the mayor declared. “We all want to focus on the fundamental issue at hand – justice for black people and all people of color.”

“That’s why as police commissioner, effective immediately and until further notice, I’m directing the Portland Police Bureau to end the use of CS gas for crowd control,” Wheeler continued. “During the last hundred days, Portland, Multnomah County, and state police have all relied on CS gas where there’s a threat to life safety. We need something different, and we need it now!”

The mayor failed to identify what that “different” solution might be, and did not unveil any plans to provide PPB with tools to replace those he has stripped away from them.

He then praised the Oregon Legislature for research they have been conducting into the use of CS gas “and what safer alternatives may exist that prevent the need for greater force.”

He further said he commits the City of Portland to “full participation in these reforms.”

Wheeler did not indicate how soon he and the legislature expect to have alternative tools and solutions available for law enforcement, who have now been under attack for well over three months.

He said he still expects police to arrest people who break the law, and that he still expects the district attorney to prosecute those offenders.

But newly-elected Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt recently announced that his office wouldn’t be prosecuting the vast majority of arrests that had been made during the riots.

“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,” Schmidt said in a statement on Aug. 11, according to KATU.

Wheeler said in his video that he’s taking action, but that everyone else has to do something, too.

“I’m acting,” he boasted. “It’s time for others to join me.”

Although the mayor failed to describe the magnitude of the violence law enforcement officers have been battling for over 100 consecutive nights, the PPB did just that in a press release later in the day.

The department noted that they have repeatedly been subjected to violence by “a group of motivated and well-organized individuals” who have openly declared “they intend to kill or injure officers and destroy occupied buildings and dwellings.”

“Rioters lit County offices on fire in a building which houses hundreds of inmates and public employees, as well as the Portland Police Central Precinct,” PPB said. “Rioters barricaded doors shut at North Precinct and East Precinct and attempted to light the building on fire with employees and civilians inside.”

“Officers have been attacked with rocks, glass bottles, frozen water bottles, lasers capable of causing permanent eye damage, ball bearings and sharp objects launched from slingshots, paint balloons (to render their face shields useless) as well as fire bombs, large fireworks, and other items,” the department’s press release read.

Citizens have also become victims at the hands of the riotous mobs.

“Numerous community members have been assaulted, one person has been murdered, firearms have been discharged, and neighborhoods such as Kenton have been endangered by fires set in the streets and at the Portland Police Association office,” PPB said. “Neighbors have been threatened and intimidated by people engaged in the nightly violence. Businesses have suffered losses from arson, vandalism and mass theft.”

PPB disputed Wheeler’s claim that CS gas has been used by PPB as a “crowd control” tool.

“It is not. It is being used to disperse crowds only when there is a life safety event. Most recently, it was used to disperse a crowd from which a Molotov cocktail was thrown at officers and ended up injuring a community member who was on fire,” the department said.

CS gas has been deployed in residential areas at times, which police said is not something they want to have to do.

“However, the community should be asking the rioters why they are committing violence that threatens the very lives of others nearby,” the department pointed out. “When people gather lawfully, peacefully, there is no need for intervention by police, much less the use of CS gas.”

In addition to complaints about officers’ interactions with rioters, PPB has simultaneously been blasted for holding back.

“Crowds have come to our precincts, vandalized cars, gates, security cameras, etc. and police do not confront the crowd. When this occurs, the crowd escalates and does something such as light a building on fire so police will have to engage them,” the department explained.

PPB warned that Wheeler’s order banning the “lawful use of CS” could end up forcing officers to resort to “much higher levels of physical force” in order to address violence.

“CS, while effective, is a significantly lower level of force than impact weapons, which would very likely be necessary to disperse riotous groups with its prohibition,” the agency said. “We do not want to use gas. We do not want to use any force.”

Limiting the tools available to the city’s police force places officers and citizens at risk, police said.

“To make an arrest in the middle of a crowd intent on destruction and injuring people, it takes considerable resources–large numbers of officers that we do not have,” PPB explained. “Not only do we not have enough PPB officers to respond in this manner, our area partners have stated they will not come to our aid, given the climate in Portland.”

The department said they are being ordered to bring hundreds of rioters under control without having the manpower, resources, and tools they need to be able to do so.

“Lately, it seems more tools have been taken away then added,” the press release read.

Officers also don’t have the luxury of waiting for the legislature or Wheeler’s experts to figure out how they can do their jobs better, because the rioters aren’t waiting for those solutions either.

“The Police Bureau is in favor of research, but research takes time. Removing tools without well vetted alternatives, with policies and training in place prior to their use, places police and community members at risk,” PPB said. “No one has presented a solution of how officers can stop a rioting group who are threatening the lives of those present, especially given that in most of these cases, officers are clearly outnumbered, sometimes by hundreds.”

The department warned that it won’t be able to help create the environment where changes can be made if they don’t have the tools to protect their members and the citizens they serve.

The Oregon State Police (OSP) called Wheeler’s CS gas ban “reckless and shortsighted,” and said they may pull back the troopers who have been helping PPB as a result of the order, The Oregonian reported.

“The OSP will be forced to assess our involvement in assisting the city of Portland,” OSP Captain Timothy Fox told the paper. “We will not for force our troopers into this untenable situation and limit their ability to defend themselves and others.”

Wheeler admonished Chief Lovell in an email after the PPB issued its press release, FOX News reported.

“While I do not often issue directives to the Portland Police Bureau, when I do I expect them to be followed,” he lectured the chief. “Civilian oversight of the Police Bureau is set in the Portland City Charter, and every sworn officer takes an oath to abide by that charter. Professionalism and public service demand nothing less.”

“PPB’s decision to put out a press release questioning my direction was a serious breach of protocol and an inappropriate use of City communications resources,” Wheeler’s office said in a statement to FOX News. “I made it clear, in no uncertain terms, to the Chief that this cannot happen again.”

Earlier this month, President Trump signed off on a five-page memo ordering his administration conduct a review that could result in a loss of federal funding to cities that have been “permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction in America.”

Those reports will be sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for further action.

Trump specifically admonished the cities of New York, Seattle, Portland, and Washington D.C. for contributing “to the violence and destruction in their jurisdictions by failing to enforce the law, disempowering and significantly defunding their police departments, and refusing to accept offers of Federal law enforcement assistance.”

Due to city leaders’ lackadaisical approach in handling the violent rioters, “persistent and outrageous acts of violence and destruction have continued unabated” over the course of the past several months, the President said.

Trump blasted Seattle for allowing “anarchists and rioters” to establish their so-called CHOP “autonomous zone.”

“Notwithstanding the fact that law-abiding citizens live and work in the invaded area, the local government effectively endorsed this lawlessness and taking of property by, among other things, abandoning the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct building and forbidding the police force from intervening to restore order,” the President wrote.

Durkan allowed the chaos to continue – at one point describing the hostile takeover as the “summer of love” – until two teens were fatally shot and at least two others were wounded.

Riots have continued since the CHOP was dismantled, injuring more than 59 Seattle police officers and leaving multiple vehicles and businesses damaged or destroyed.

The President also called out Portland city leaders for allowing rioters to destroy the downtown area for the past 100 nights.

“They have attacked Federal law enforcement personnel protecting the Federal courthouse with Molotov cocktails, mortar-style fireworks, hard projectiles, and lasers that can cause permanent blindness,” Trump said in the memo.

At least 140 federal officers have been injured in the attacks.

“For much of this period, State and local officials in Portland have taken insufficient steps to protect the Federal courthouse, and initially rejected offers of Federal law enforcement assistance,” the President added.

New York City officials “allowed looting to take place for over a week” in late May and early June, “resulting in damage to an estimated 450 businesses,” Trump wrote.

There have been 896 shootings in New York this year as of Aug. 16 – up from 492 shootings during the same period one year ago.

One of the victims was a one-year-old child.

“Shootings have been rising in recent weeks, and police reported 244 shootings last month compared to 88 in July 2019 — a 177 percent increase,” Trump noted. “While violence has surged, arrests have plummeted.”

Despite the sharp increase in violent crime, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council opted to defund the city’s police force by a staggering $1 billion, resulting in the loss of 1,163 law enforcement positions as well as other cutbacks.

The department’s plainclothes Anti-Crime Unit has also been disbanded.

“I have offered to provide Federal law enforcement assistance, but both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have rejected my offer,” President Trump said.

In late May and early June, the President ended up having “to call in the National Guard to maintain law and order” in Washington, D.C. after Mayor Muriel Bowser “allowed rioters and anarchists to engage in violence and destruction,” he continued.

The President noted that “hundreds of billions” in taxpayer dollars are provided to states and localities by the federal government every year.

“These funds have been collected from American taxpayers who entrusted their money to the Federal Government to serve our communities and our citizens,” he wrote. “My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones.”

Trump said he ordered the review in order to “safeguard” those tax dollars to ensure they are not being “wasted nor spent in a manner that directly violates our Government’s promise to protect life, liberty, and property,” by cities that “permit anarchy, violence, and destruction.”

Within the next two weeks, a list of state and local “anarchist jurisdictions” that have allowed “violence and the destruction of property to persist” without taking “reasonable efforts to counteract these criminal activities” will be published on the Department of Justice website, according to the memo.

President Trump said that the OMB, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Attorney General will consider multiple factors when identifying which cities meet the definition of an “anarchist jurisdiction.”

Included in the definition are jurisdictions that forbid law enforcement “from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction,” according to the President.

Jurisdictions that have “withdrawn law enforcement protections” from areas or buildings where they are “lawfully entitled to access” may also qualify, as well as areas that have defunded or disempowered their law enforcement departments, the memo read.

Cities that “unreasonably” refuse to accept the federal government’s offers of law enforcement assistance may also be deemed as “anarchist jurisdictions.”

President Trump noted that the Attorney General’s Office may consider “other related factors” as it deems appropriate.

“Within 30 days of the date of this memorandum, the Director of OMB shall issue guidance to the heads of agencies on restricting eligibility of or otherwise disfavoring, to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of Federal grants that the agency has sufficient lawful discretion to restrict or otherwise disfavor anarchist jurisdictions from receiving,” the memo read.

White House OMB Director Russ Vought praised the President’s directive to review way cities are using taxpayer dollars.

“American taxpayers who fund the great programs that our cities rely on deserve to be protected by their local city officials,” Vought told the New York Post. “We are taking action by exploring all options to ensure federal resources flowing to lawless cities aren’t being squandered.”

The budget director said that the “lack of response” from some city leaders qualifies as “a dereliction of duty.”

“Our men and women in blue cannot be handcuffed by local leadership in their efforts to respond to riots and protect their fellow citizens,” Vought added.

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Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Avatar Written by Holly Matkin

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