MULTNOMAH COUNTY, OR (KPTV) - The Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced that his office will not prosecute certain charges stemming from the ongoing protests in Portland.
The new policy announced Tuesday will "promote a safe community and reduce the negative and lasting impacts a person can experience once involved in the criminal justice system following an arrest resulting from a peaceful protest or mass demonstration," according to the district attorney's office.
“In order to advance public safety, we must not only prevent crime, but we must also promote economic and housing stability, educational opportunities, strong family and community relationships, and the mental and physical health of all those in our community. If we leverage the full force of the criminal justice system on individuals who are peacefully protesting and demanding to be heard, we will cause irreparable harm to them individually and to our society. The prosecution of people exercising their rights to free speech and assembly in a non-violent manner takes away from the limited resources that we have to prosecute serious crimes and to assist crime victims,” said Schmidt.
Under the new policy, the district attorney's office will "presumptively decline to prosecute cases where the most serious offense is a city ordinance violation or where the crime(s) do not involve deliberate property damage, theft or the use or threat of force against another person."
Those crimes include:
- Interfering with a peace officer or parole and probation officer
- Second-degree disorderly conduct
- First and second-degree criminal trespass
- Third-degree escape
- Riot - Unless accompanied by a charge outside of this list.
The district attorney's office says that the charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a public safety officer will be subjected to the highest level of scrutiny by the deputy district attorney reviewing the arrest. Consideration for those charges will be given to the "chaos of a protesting environment."
Also, when a protester is charged with a misdemeanor or felony for crimes that cause only financial harm during a protest, they will be offered conditional dismissal after restitution is paid to the victim or other amends to the community are made, according to the district attorney's office.
Those crimes include:
- Second and third-degree criminal mischief - when the value is under $1,000
- First, second and third-degree theft - when the value is under $1,000 or when the theft is committed during a riot
- Second-degree burglary if combined with any criminal mischief or theft allegation
The district attorney's office said it is neither condoning nor endorsing the conduct that led to the arrest or citation of a person. A prosecution decline decision does not change Oregon law.
The district attorney's office said arrest charges for crimes that allege "intentional physical violence against community members and/or law enforcement" will be handled by general office policies. This includes charges for assault and arson.
Police Police Chief Chuck Lovell released a statement Tuesday afternoon about the announcement, saying, "We have said repeatedly throughout these long months that we would prefer not to make arrests at all. In fact, people regularly meet to demonstrate all over Portland with no police interaction. Over the last several months, we've seen thousands gather in awesome displays of peaceful assembly."
Lovell stated, confirming what Schmidt said, that his policy "does not change the law, nor does it say his office will tolerate damage to property or deliberate violence against police or anyone else."
"As always, whether the District Attorney decides to charge cases we send to his office is up to him. The Portland Police Bureau will continue to do the job the community expects of us, and will continue to reach out to all people to connect and build trusting relationships. One of those relationships is with the District Attorney, and we will continue to work with that office in the interest of public safety," according to Lovell.
To view a full copy of the district attorney's office new policy, click here.
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