PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Law enforcement officers in Portland, Oregon said Thursday they are prepared for potential unrest on Election Day and beyond in Oregon's largest city and also around the state.
Portland has been the site of near-nightly protests against racial injustice and police brutality that have strained police resources and brought national attention to the city, including derision from President Donald Trump. Several right-wing groups have rallied in the city in response to Trump's calls for the need to restore “law and order” in Democrat-led cities.
The Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police and the Multnomah County District Attorney said at a joint news conference Thursday that they have formed a “unified command” to address any protests or voter intimidation. The agencies said it was too early to say which of the agencies will command the law enforcement officers on the ground in Portland and that details were still being ironed out.
A similar unified command that was established to police a rally held by the far-right group Proud Boys last month backfired on the city. The U.S. Marshals Service federally deputized Portland police officers and Oregon State troopers but refused to rescind the deputations when the weekend rally ended.
The deputations — which mean that protesters arrested by city police could be charged with federal crimes in some cases — have become a hot-button issue in Portland's close mayor's race leading up to Election Day.
Portland has canceled days off for officers during election week, said Chief Chuck Lovell, adding that knowing exactly how many officers might be needed was hard almost a week out. Portland police are banned from using tear gas, but Oregon State Police troopers can.
“A lot of it, from our perspective, is somewhat reactionary. We have to react to what they decide to do, whether they decide to comply or where they decide to go and what activity they decide to engage in,” Lovell said of protesters.
Sheriff Mike Reese said there are no known threats to Multnomah County during election week, but said his deputies would be doing additional patrols around ballot drop boxes and would respond to complaints about voter intimidation.
Oregon is a universal vote-by-mail state. That means voters all receive postage-paid mail-in ballots. They can be returned by mail, hand-delivered to an elections office or placed in a secure ballot box up until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
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