The U.S. Attorney for the state of Oregon has rejected a request from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to remove federal deputy status from the city's police.
Fifty-six Portland officers were deputized before a rally in the city last weekend by the far-right Proud Boys group. Portland city officials apparently did not know that their officers' federal deputization status would last until the end of this year.
In a joint statement, U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams and Russ Berger, the U.S. Marshal in the state, swatted down Mayor Ted Wheeler's request and called him out for a “lack of leadership” that they said has allowed acts of violence to overshadow more than four months of nearly nightly protests since the death of George Floyd.
Wheeler said Tuesday that he had asked the U.S. attorney’s office to withdraw the designation that deputized the officers.
Deputizing the Portland officers gives federal prosecutors the option to charge anyone arrested by those officers with federal crimes, which often come with more severe penalties than the state crimes for which local police usually make arrests. It also allows law enforcement a route around Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt's decision not to file state charges against hundreds of protesters arrested for lower-level and non-violent offenses, a policy that has angered some in the law enforcement community.
Last week, violence in Portland reached a new level when protesters hurled three firebombs into a line of advancing police officers.