Portland, OR – Fifty-six members of the Portland Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team who were deputized as federal marshals ahead of last weekend’s rally and counter-protests will maintain the status through the end of 2020.
The officers were sworn in on Sept. 26 ahead of a Proud Boys rally planned for Delta Park, The Oregonian reported.
There was a counter-demonstration planned for Peninsula Park, and the two groups have had multiple violent clashes in the past.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an emergency executive order to put 56 officers, sergeants, and lieutenants from the unit that handles crowd control for the police bureau under the command of Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton and Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese temporarily, The Oregonian reported.
Superintendent Hampton asked the U.S. Marshals Service to grant federal power to the members of the Rapid Response Team who are typically on the front lines of the nightly violent protests.
As a result, protesters who attack the officers during riots could be charged with federal crimes and potentially face harsher penalties for assaulting police, KATU reported.
“Portland Officers have been serving on the front lines of nightly protests for months, sustaining injuries and encountering unspeakable violence,” Superintendent Hampton said. “If I am to send them into harm’s way this weekend, on my authority, I’m going to ensure they have all the protections and authority of an OSP Trooper.”
The superintendent has previously said that he wanted protesters thinking about the “enhanced penalties” they could face for attacking Portland police officers, KATU reported.
“If they were attacked, whoever attacked them could face federal charges and be prosecuted differently,” U.S. Marshals Service Spokesman Dave Oney told OPB.
Oney explained the practice of deputizing local police was not an unusual one.
He said local police are regularly deputized when they are assisting federal agencies in tracking down a fugitive, KATU reported.
Oney also used the Inauguration as an example of when many local, county, and state law enforcement officers are deputized to assist federal agents.
But he also pointed out that the deputizations usually only last for the duration of the event or investigation they’re assisting with and said extending it for months was unusual, KATU reported.
The Portland Police Bureau confirmed Monday night that the 56 Rapid Response Team members who had be federally deputized on Saturday would maintain that status through the remainder of the year.
The U.S. Marshals Service’s Oregon district told KATU that they would renew the federal status of the officers in 2021 if necessary.
Portland Police Sergeant Kevin Allen told The Oregonian that the fact that some Portland officers had been deputized did not mean that all assaults against them would be federally charged.
“According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, federal deputization, standing alone, does not trigger coverage under the statute that prohibits assaults on federal officers,” Sgt. Allen said in an email.
The sergeant said charging decisions would be based on individual crimes and whether there was federal interest in them, The Oregonian reported.
“Along with the Oregon State Police who are also sworn as Federal Officers, this will enable any persons who commit violent acts towards our Law Enforcement Officers to be charged federally,” the state police said in a statement. “The Oregon State Police and Portland Police will continue to make arrests on state charges. Those cases are then reviewed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and federal prosecutors will determine if any cases warrant federal charges.”
Some protesters have already faced federal charges in Portland for attacks on police officers outside precincts and the police union’s headquarters, The Oregonian reported.
Portland city officials claimed they did not know the Portland officers’ federal designation would extend to the end of the year, the Associated Press reported.
Portland City Attorney Tracy Reeve sent an email to the U.S. Attorney’s Office that said city leaders had thought the officers were only deputized through Sunday evening, when the governor’s State of Emergency declaration ended.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler late on Tuesday night “asked the U.S. attorney’s office to withdraw the designation” that deputized the officers late, the Associated Press reported.