Election-day plans in Portland include National Guard, possibly tear gas
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has put Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese and the Oregon State Police in charge of election-day security and protest response in Portland this week, and has put the Oregon National Guard on standby.
The plan, issued as an executive order, comes amid concerns over the potential for election-day intimidation and violence. And it bypasses restrictions on the Portland Police Bureau, including the use of tear gas.
"I want to be very, very clear that voter intimidation and political violence will not be tolerated," Brown said. "Not from the left, not from the right, and not from the center. Not this week and not any week in Oregon."
The use of tear gas has been a source of controversy and litigation. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler had prohibited the Portland Police Bureau from using tear gas, and federal court rulings have placed other restrictions on Portland police as well. The governor's move, however, essentially allows the police to operate normally.
"Law enforcement needs these tools at times to keep Oregonians safe and protect property," Brown said of the potential use of tear gas.
Asked about tear gas, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said that, under the governor's executive order, Portland police officer can use it if necessary. "If need be, that tool will be available at the direction of Oregon State Police or Multnomah County Sheriff's Office," he said.
Oregon State Police Superintendent Terri Davie, along with Reese, will co-lead the unified command set up by the governor.
She said her office will communicate with federal law enforcement and coordinate with them.
Some Portland police officers and state troopers have been deputized by the federal government. In some cases, that allows federal prosecutors to file charges in federal court that carry stiffer penalties compared to charges in state court.
Gov. Brown said the federal deputizations are not part of the plan. However, Davie said the legal effect of the deputizations will remain.
If Multnomah District Attorney Mike Schmidt thinks an arrest does not meet his county guidelines on when to file charges, the charges might fit federal guidelines, Davie said.
Major General Michael Stencel of the Oregon National Guard described his agency's role as primarily one of support, available on standby, though he said potential roles include "riot control."
Following the governor's announcement, Wheeler issued a press release. "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," the statement said. "I appreciate that Gov. Brown is using her executive authority to bring more resources to Portland."
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