WASHINGTON COUNTY, OR (KPTV) - In an unprecedented move, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is pulling back some of its support and resources given to the Portland Police Bureau.
It's common for law enforcement agencies to work together on cases, offering resources and support but this move, detailed in an internal memo obtained exclusively by FOX 12, will change the agency's relationship with PPB moving forward.
According to the internal memo, the decision has nothing to do with any bad blood between the agencies – rather the current political climate in Portland and what the agency’s legal counsel calls an “anti-police attitude.”
WCSO said it will no longer authorize its deputies to respond to calls in Portland, if a case has no proven connection to its jurisdiction.
Sheriff Patrick Garrett enacted the new directive Thursday.
“This has been in the works for the past year, since the Flores-Haro civil suit.”
That case, involving Washington County tactical officers who were called in to help Portland police serve an arrest warrant, ended with a bystander being shot.
It also resulted in a $7 million-dollar verdict against Washington County in a civil case. The county ultimately paid out a little more than a million dollars to the plaintiff.
“If we’re engaged in a use of force event in the city of Portland the likelihood that costs are going to be significant as a result of that are just higher,” he said.
The agency’s Senior Assistant County Counsel, Elmer Dickens, explained why in the internal email sent on Thursday.
In it, he writes, “the makeup of the Portland jury pool and the anti-police attitudes of many residents appears to have a large impact upon the DA’s ability to successfully bring charges against suspects that are injured in police use of force cases.”
Dickens also appears to criticize the way the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office handles officer involved shootings.
Dickens writes, “A policy of making every officer who uses deadly force become a criminal suspect in a grand jury proceeding is disturbing.”
“Officers should not be made criminal suspects simply because they do their job. If the force appears to be reasonable under a totality of the circumstances and there are no facts that indicate a crime has been committed, it seems inappropriate to take that case to the grand jury.”
In the letter, Dickens shares another concern regarding who pays the legal costs in the event of a deputy involved shooting.
According to him, the city of Portland has a policy reserving the right to indemnify officers involved in shooting investigations, meaning if the officer is found to have violated a suspect’s civil rights, he or she will be responsible for all legal costs.
“That is hugely stressful for the officer who is at-risk of losing his or her personal assets while the case drags on for years until the case goes to trial," writes Dickens. He added, “the City has done this to its own officers, and there is no reason to think that your deputies would be treated differently.”
But, according to Sheriff Garrett, this is about more than money.
“Providing excellent law enforcement services to Washington County residents in Washington County is job one,” he said.
Sheriff Garrett told FOX 12, he considered all the factors the agency’s legal counsel presented him, when forming his decision.
He said he will authorize deputies to respond to calls in Portland only in the event of a life-threatening emergency involving a police officer or an active shooter situation.
WCSO also confirms its deputies will no longer be present at protests held in Portland. But, according to Sheriff Garrett, there will still be cross-agency cooperation in investigations.
It is unclear if Clackamas County sheriff’s office will follow suit or what impact this new policy will have on public safety in Portland. However, Clark County officials said its policy will not change.
FOX 12 reached out to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office for its response to some of the criticism regarding its policy on use of force investigations.
According to a spokesperson, “the grand jury will review all cases involving a law enforcement officer's discharge of a firearm which results in death, serious physical injury or physical injury unless at the discretion of the District Attorney it is determined that grand jury review is unwarranted.”
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