Portland, OR – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has told area law enforcement agencies that they need to develop “strong mutual aid agreements” with the city in order to prepare for anticipated rioting on Election Day.
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.
After unveiling a program to dole out $500 Visa gift cards to residents affected by COVID-19 during a press conference on Monday, Wheeler addressed the need to be prepared for potential violence in the wake of the Nov. 3 election.
“So, several weeks ago, I stood here at this podium and I said that what we need to be fully prepared for any potential violence or other disruptions on election night is strong mutual aid agreements in place with our federal, our state, and our local law enforcement partners,” the mayor said.
Wheeler noted that he has been meeting with other agencies since that time, to include speaking with Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Sunday.
“We’re in discussions about what that template mutual aid agreement would look like,” he continued. “The goal is…for all of us to compromise a little bit so that we can have a solid mutual aid agreement that we all agree to in advance.”
The mayor noted that Brown and the Oregon State Police (OSP) are “not willing participate in mutual aid if CS gas isn’t on the table as a viable option.”
Wheeler said that “everything is on the table” with regards to the issues they have been considering, including “crowd dispersal techniques,” potential federal deputization, indemnification, and economic reimbursement for costs incurred while responding to the city’s riots.
“My expectation is that we’ll be making an announcement in the next day or two about specifically what the plan is and what the agreement is with regard to interagency cooperation,” he told reporters.
Brown’s office said on Monday that she has instructed the OSP to collaborate with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and the PPB to determine what resources they might need to in order to handle potential uprisings, KATU reported.
The OSP confirmed that plans are being discussed, but said that no solutions have been agreed upon.
Although Wheeler referenced including federal law enforcement in the mutual aid agreement, it is unclear what role – if any – federal officials have had in recent discussions with Portland city officials.
Wheeler’s demands for assistance come less than two weeks after the city of Portland and the city of Oakland filed a federal lawsuit accusing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) of illegally taking over law enforcement duties in both cities back in June, KATU reported.
The cities claimed that the federal agencies took over police duties after President Donald Trump signed off on an executive order to protect federal monuments this past summer, and that doing so was in violation of the U.S. Constitution, KATU reported.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf were also named in the 48-page lawsuit, which was filed in California on Oct. 14.
The lawsuit said that Wolf and Barr never asked for Portland’s “consent” before they sent federal officers in to protect federal building in early July, KATU reported.
Once federal officers arrived, they “did not act at the direction of PPB command,” the cities complained in the lawsuit.
But in September, Portland city officials agreed to allow 56 members of the PPB’s Rapid Response Team to be deputized as federal marshals ahead of a planned rally and counter-protest, The Oregonian reported.
Portland city officials said they believed the deputization would only last for a few days, but that the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Attorney for Oregon said they’re leaving the deputizations in place until Dec. 31, KATU reported.
According to the lawsuit, the federal agencies’ refusal to end the deputizations is further evidence that the federal government is “commandeering” local law enforcement.
It also accused federal officials of illegally erecting a fence outside the federal courthouse, thereby blocking a city sidewalk.
The temporary barrier was installed after rioters repeatedly attacked federal officers while attempting to vandalize and burn down the courthouse building every night for months.
“Yet again, dangerous politicians and fringe special interest groups have ginned up a meritless lawsuit,” a DHS spokesperson told KATU. “They aim to harm President Trump and distract from his law and order agenda.”
“Department of Homeland Security have acted entirely lawfully. Instead of condemning the violence we are seeing across the country, these politicians focus on scoring cheap political points to the detriment of the American people,” the spokesperson said.