Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill to resign
Spurred by historic unrest and calls to recast the criminal justice system, Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill will resign five months early.
Underhill — who has worked in the county prosecutors' office for 32 years — will clock out for the last time on Friday, July 31.
"We are in the midst of what I hope and believe will be monumental and lasting societal change. As human beings and as public servants, we must reject racism, bigotry and hatred." Underhill said in an all-staff email on June 16.
"George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many others should not have had to die to cause us to collectively rise up and shout from our streets that black lives matter and to demand essential and lasting systemic change," he continued, referencing the deaths of three African Americans seen as the victims of racial prejudice and unjust law enforcement.
Underhill's place as the county's top prosecutor will be filled by incoming District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who won 76% of the vote in May after running for the top spot on a platform of reform and restorative justice.
Instead of taking office on Jan. 1, Underhill has recommended that Gov. Kate Brown appoint Schmidt to fill out the remainder of Underhill's term, beginning Aug. 1, according to the letter. In a news release, Schmidt said he was planning on filing the paperwork necessary to be appointed.
"In order to move forward, we must be willing to recognize and call out the systemic racism in our criminal justice system and other institutions," Schmidt said. "We should start by listening to the voices of Black people and other people of color, and most importantly, we have to be prepared to turn speeches and protests into major reforms."
Underhill's two-page letter urges all staff to support Schmidt, noting that the accelerated timeline will cause some additional stress, but that it would be "shortsighted" for Underhill to remain in office when the times call for both immediate action and long-term planning.
"During my tenure as District Attorney, we have sought to make intentional changes to our public safety system to reduce disparate impacts on our black community," Underhill wrote. "It is time to do much more."
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