SECRETARY OF STATE OPENS INVESTIGATION OF POLICE COMMANDER: 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 said 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 WW story about Hurley's comments ("About Schmidt," March 17, 2021). SOS spokesman Aaron Fiedler said the Elections Division received a complaint March 17 from a lawyer who alleged Hurley's comments violated state law relating to solicitation by public employees. Hurley attended the Jan. 14 meeting of the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association in full uniform, including badge and gun, during work hours on behalf of the Police Bureau. But 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."
D.A. SCHMIDT TESTIFIES AGAINST MANDATORY SENTENCES: Meanwhile, Mike Schmidt testified March 23 in support of Senate Bill 401, which would do away with mandatory minimum sentences for felonies other than murder and allow courts to impose lesser sentences. "Senate Bill 401 is a tremendously important bill, arguably the most important public safety bill in recent memory," the Multnomah County district attorney said. In 1994, Oregon voters passed Measure 11, which set mandatory sentences for serious felonies, barring reduced prison time for such factors as good behavior. "In the 27 years that have followed the passage of Ballot Measure 11, we have learned much about what works in criminal justice," Schmidt said. "We've learned that much of what we believed was true nearly three decades ago was not only untrue but actively harmful, creating deep systems of inequity that we are still wrestling with today." The bill is sponsored by Sens. Floyd Prozanksi (D-Eugene) and James Manning (D-Eugene). It is one of at least three bills introduced during the 2021 legislative session that seek to dismantle Measure 11.
OREGON HOUSE SENT HOME BY COVID CASE: The lower chamber of the Oregon Legislature won't again meet in person until at least March 29 after Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) learned someone with COVID-19 entered the House chamber on March 15 and 16. The two-week pause is Kotek's effort to avert an outbreak similar to that in Idaho, where at least six lawmakers contracted the virus during that state's legislative session. It's also likely to further inflame tensions between House Democrats and Republicans over the scope and location of the session.
PROUD BOYS RESURFACE IN SANDY: The far-right men's fraternity the Proud Boys has made itself scarce in Oregon for the two months since its members participated in storming the U.S. Capitol in a failed bid to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But the group's distinctive yellow-collared Fred Perry polos were spotted last weekend in Sandy, where the Proud Boys joined a Pentecostal church for a rally "to celebrate the natural heterosexual family." It was the first public appearance by the extremist group in the Portland region this year. Pastor Russell Collier of the Rivers of Living Water United Pentecostal Church told WW he didn't invite the Proud Boys to his March 20 rally, but he appreciated their presence given the threats he said he's received online for planning the event.