Following Deputization of Portland Police Officers, Congressman Earl Blumenauer Introduces Legislation to Limit Federal Reach

“The federal deputization of dozens of Portland police officers never should have been allowed to happen, especially with this lawless administration."

Police advance along Southwest 4th Avenue after a Sept. 26 protest was declared an unlawful assembly. (Alex Wittwer)

Following the federal deputization of more than 50 Portland police officers, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer announced new legislation Oct. 8 that would limit the authority of the U.S. Marshals Service when deputizing local police officers.

On the morning of Sept. 26, hours before a planned Proud Boys rally began in Delta Park, the Marshals Service deputized 56 Portland police officers and 22 Multnomah County sheriff's deputies as far-right rhetoric surrounding the impending event grew increasingly alarming. The deputizations were initiated by Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton, under the orders of Gov. Kate Brown.

Some officials—including Chief Chuck Lovell of the Portland Police Bureau—were under the impression that the federal deputization would last only for the duration of the event. Instead, the officers are deputy U.S. marshals for the remainder of 2020.

That means a protester who gets into a tussle with a Portland cop on, say, the night after Election Day could face charges of assaulting a federal officer.

(PPB has not responded to multiple requests for comment from WW about whether Lovell plans to withdraw consent from the agreement.)

Other elected officials, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, weren't consulted at all beforehand. Since Sept. 29, Wheeler has called on the feds to de-deputize Portland police officers. But U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams insists that the federal deputization of local officers will last through the end of 2020.

Blumenauer says the deputization of dozens of Portland police officers shouldn't have happened in the first place.

"What's even more disturbing, however, is the fact that this deputization could last months against the wishes of local authorities," Blumenauer said. "There may be times when state and local officials want to federally deputize law enforcement under their control. At the same time, the Constitution allows them to end that whenever they choose.…We will make that clear to Trump, Barr and their political appointees in Oregon."

Blumenauer says his bill, called the Keep Law Enforcement Local Act, will limit the authority of the U.S. Marshals Service to deputize local law enforcement "officers unless consent is received from local government and specifies that they may withdraw consent at any time, at which point the deputation status would be terminated."

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