The Elections Division of the Oregon Secretary of State's Office has opened an investigation into comments made by East Precinct Commander Erica Hurley of the Portland Police Bureau, who suggested at a neighborhood meeting in January that residents should vote out Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt if they want to reduce crime.
The investigation follows a March 17 WW story about Hurley's comments. SOS spokesman Aaron Fiedler said the Elections Division initiated the investigation the day WW's story published, after a lawyer filed a complaint alleging Hurley's comments violated ORS 260.432, a state law relating to solicitation by public employees.
Hurley made comments about Schmidt and other city and state policies during the Jan. 14 meeting of the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association. She attended in full uniform, including badge and gun, during work hours and on behalf of the Police Bureau.
"So the drug activity that you see, I can do nothing about," Hurley said during the meeting. "I can't arrest them. I can't send them to jail. I can't do anything. I can't control that. Who controls that is you, because, when the DA's office asks what you want done, you need to send emails to the district attorney and phone calls to the district attorney. When the vote comes up again—because, the reality is, he won the vote with over 70% of the people—you have to vote no, right? And you have to vote."
The Secretary of State's investigation is ongoing, Fiedler said.
The city's Independent Police Review, which investigates allegations of police misconduct, says it will not probe Hurley's actions, because it doesn't believe she violated the bureau's directive on political activity.
"This doesn't appear to be about anything that's pending on the ballot, so it's not a violation of a directive," said Ross Caldwell, director of IPR. "In my experience, this is not anything new that officers [are] doing this. I've seen it happen for years and years and years with different DAs, different police."
The Police Bureau declined to comment on whether Hurley's comments triggered an internal affairs investigation.