Portland, OR – Oregon Governor Kate Brown has issued an executive order requiring local law enforcement agencies to work together under a unified command to prevent potential Election Day violence.
Under the order, the Oregon State Police (OSP) and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) will be in joint command of public safety in the city of Portland during any election-related uprisings, KOIN reported.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who recently demanded that other agencies come help Portland with potential rioting, blamed “white supremist organizations and the divisive rhetoric from Washington, D.C.” for causing the need for a unified response, KPTV reported.
“I appreciate that Governor Brown is using her executive authority to bring more resources to Portland,” he said in a press release on Monday.
While Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers dealt with over 100 consecutive nights of rioting this past summer, city officials banned them from using tear gas, defunded the department by $15 million, eliminated three specialty police units, and repeatedly accosted officers for the ongoing violence.
Portland city commissioners are currently considering a new proposal that would eliminate 42 sworn officer positions and would also cut the understaffed PPB’s budget by another $18 million.
Countless law enforcement officers have been attacked with fireworks, rocks, bricks, and various other projectiles during the nightly riots, leaving many officers injured.
Multiple law enforcement agencies have repeatedly refused to send their officers into harm’s way to help PPB unless Wheeler agrees to reverse the CS gas ban, which he has thus far refused to do.
Under Brown’s executive order, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Monday, police use of tear gas will be permitted in extreme situations under the direction of the joint command, KPTV reported.
The order is slated to last for 48 hours, at which point Brown could opt to extend it.
MCSO and OSP will operate under a unified command, which also includes support from the PPB and the Oregon National Guard, KPTV reported.
The National Guard soldiers will remain on standby so they can be deployed to the city if need be.
“We’ve got a number of units available on standby to assist – in riot, traffic detentions, whatever may be need,” Oregon National Guard Major General Michael Stencel told KPTV.
Brown said that officials have been planning for potential Election Day violence for weeks.
“Especially this year, there are unique dynamics at play that may create an environment ripe for a heated Election Day, and post-election period,” the governor said. “This election also comes at a pivotal moment in Oregon, where the pandemic, wildfires and political atmosphere have boosted fear and anxiety.”
Over the course of the past five months, residents have “seen firsthand what happens when free expression is fueled by hate,” she added.
“We know that there are some people who might use peaceful election night protests to promote violence and property destruction,” Brown continued. “This behavior is not acceptable and it’s not in line with our Oregon values of being an inclusive democracy.”
She said that everyone has the right to free speech and peaceful assembly, but that “voter intimidation and political violence will not be tolerated,” KPTV reported.
“Not from the Left, the Right, or the Center. Not this week, not any week in Oregon,” the governor declared.
Wheeler noted that local law enforcement has been working for weeks to ensure adequate resources will be available to help keep the community safe this week, KPTV reported.
“We’ve cancelled days off, put staff on call, and coordinated across all city bureaus to prepare for a wide range of possible scenarios,” he said. “Given the heightened concerns about potential violence, particularly from white supremist organizations and the divisive rhetoric from Washington, D.C., the need for coordination and partnership takes on statewide significance. Oregon is likely to be a flashpoint.”
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said the ultimate goal is not to have to use any force at all throughout the election process, KOIN reported.
“Our overarching goal is to keep the peace, to have a visible presence so people can vote peacefully and engage in our democratic processes and for us to support that,” Sheriff Reese added.