<<Jordan Dinwiddie, Eberechi Onyenze, Ramone Palmore, Nathaniel Poe and Larry Wright say they were discriminated against for shopping while Black.>>
Dinwiddie is one of more than a dozen clients on whose behalf the Kafoury & McDougal law firm is filing lawsuits in Multnomah County Circuit Court in the coming weeks. The lawsuits name several national retailers.
In 2022, Kafoury & McDougal won a $4.4 million verdict against Walmart on behalf of Michael Mangum, who said he’d been racially profiled at a Walmart in Wood Village. After that, says Jason Kafoury, the lead attorney on the new cases, the firm’s phones rarely stopped ringing.
(Walmart has appealed the verdict.)
“We have had an explosion of these cases since the Black Lives Matter movement,” Kafoury says. “I think Trump gave racist people permission to become more blatantly racist. I also think big-box stores are getting more aggressive with their security.”
Shoplifting makes for splashy news coverage, and senior executives at stores such as Walmart and Target have cited its rise during the pandemic as a drag on profits. Walgreens made headlines last year when it said it was closing five San Francisco stores because of shoplifting.
But one of the company’s top executives walked back that explanation in January, according to The New York Times, telling investors “maybe we cried too much.”
The retail industry’s own statistics do not support the notion of runaway theft: The 2022 National Retail Security Survey shows that “shrinkage” as a percentage of sales was 1.4% in 2021, about the same as the average over the previous six years and lower than the year before the pandemic.
Yet Kafoury and his clients say store security staffers appear to be more aggressive in demanding to see customers’ receipts. The lawsuits contend that big-box stores are racially profiling their customers in the process.
One name conspicuously absent from the sheaf of lawsuits Kafoury is filing: Fred Meyer. In 1996, Kafoury’s father, Greg, won a $475,000 lawsuit against the one-stop shopping center giant over its policy of randomly forcing shoppers to show receipts.
“We almost never get cases against Fred Meyer,” Kafoury says. “It looks like that lawsuit caused them to change their corporate behavior for decades.”
A 2022 national survey of more than 1,000 Black Americans found that more than 90% of them felt they’d been profiled while shopping. While none of those WW interviewed could prove their race prompted the accusations against them, each said white customers walked out of stores where they were detained, unbothered.>>
One of the plaintiffs is a Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputy.
<<In October 2020, after a summer of racial justice protests, Mayor Ted Wheeler agreed to create a truth and reconciliation commission to address the Portland Police Bureau’s historic mistreatment of communities of color.
More than two years later, that program has yet to be realized. A recent investigation from the city auditor’s office found that the process to hire a firm to help oversee the commission’s work violated city policy.
Auditors found that the city’s Community Safety Division, which is overseen by Mayor Ted Wheeler, had attempted to circumvent a competitive contractor selection process. Instead, the city directly awarded the job to a company called TrustLab that has close ties with the Portland Police Bureau.
“We found it especially troubling that [the city] avoided an open and competitive process for selecting a contractor to help set the course for rebuilding trust between the Police Bureau and community members,” reads the auditor’s report, released Wednesday morning.
Although city leaders decided to slow the project before inking the planned $200,000 contract with TrustLab, the auditor’s report highlights the kinds of shortcuts city leaders were willing to take to advance a controversial, high-stakes plan.>>
<<The idea to establish a truth and reconciliation commission came from the Portland Committee for Community Engaged Policing, a group mandated by the 2014 settlement agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the police bureau’s pattern of using excessive force against people in mental health crises.>>
<<In Portland, the truth and reconciliation proposal was centered around a legacy of mistrust between Portlanders, particularly people of color, and the police – fueled by past officers’ past defense of Nazi ideology and by data showing racial disparities in traffic stops, among other things.>>
<<After Wheeler approved the proposal with a $250,000 budget in 2020, city staff set to work hashing out the details. Then-Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s office took the lead, organizing meetings to gather public input on how the commission should operate and panel discussions with experts in truth and reconciliation work. While the work had the stated support of city commissioners and Portland Police leadership, it wasn’t universally accepted. In April 2022, Portland Police Association president Aaron Schmautz condemned the project for the very theory that it was based on: that Portland police are racist.
The union leader said that spending a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayer money on this process “would shock the conscience.”>>
<<Yet a few months later, a new company called TrustLab was negotiating a $200,000 contract with the city to help prepare the city to set up a truth and reconciliation commission. Among its listed leaders: Aaron Schmautz.
According to state business records, TrustLab registered as a business in May 2022. Led by former business consultant Matt McNair, TrustLab boasts a board of advisers saturated with law enforcement veterans and representatives. Four of the 10 listed advisers have specifically worked for the Portland Police Bureau, including Schmautz, former PPB assistant chief Dorothy Elmore, and former police union president Robert King.
A month after obtaining a business license, TrustLab sent the city’s Community Safety Division a proposal to help prepare Portland for a “truth and reconciliation process.” Under this proposal, the company wouldn’t be overseeing or orchestrating the actual work of a truth and reconciliation commission, but its staff would specifically focus on gathering input and perspective from the police bureau to help design the final commission. The work appeared geared toward ensuring Portland police felt comfortable with the project.>>
<<When looking to contract with an outside organization, it’s standard practice for the city to open the position to any interested groups to ensure a competitive selection process. There are, however, certain situations in which city officials can contract directly with an organization without inviting others to compete, such as when a contractor is uniquely fit to fulfill the city’s needs and if the contract is meant for a limited-term pilot program.
In TrustLab’s case, the city’s procurement department allowed the city an exemption from a competitive bidding process under the assumption that the work they were proposing was a pilot program. But this exception should not have been given, according to the auditor’s office.
The auditor’s report notes that TrustLab has little, if any, history overseeing truth and reconciliation work. It also identified several other organizations that could have provided the city with identical work.
“TrustLab may have been [the city]’s top choice for the project, but the decision about which contractor to use should have been made through a competitive procurement process,” reads the report.
Gresham city Councilor Vince Jones-Dixon serves as the chair of TrustLab’s board of advisers. In an email to OPB, Jones-Dixon explained that TrustLab advisers and staff have been doing work to strengthen relationships between police and community for years in a volunteer capacity. More recently, the organization has been piloting a project that sets up one-on-one conversations between police officers and Black men for a nonprofit called Braver Angels. He added that TrustLab is already volunteering its time with the city helping facility meetings and listening sessions. The company is largely supported by private funding.
The city ultimately decided to cancel its partnership with TrustLab, before formal approval of the contract occurred, after pushback from several council offices. While it never moved forward, the indication that the city had intended to skip a competitive bid process to fast track the work of a pro-police company raised alarms for the auditor’s office.
“In this case, the process matters as much as the outcome,” City Auditor Simone Rede said in a press statement. “A competitive procurement for the Police Bureau’s Truth and Reconciliation project would have built trust that community members were seeking and saved City resources from the beginning.”
The auditor’s report places blame on both the city’s procurement office and the Community Safety Division for attempting to push through TrustLab’s contract without allowing other organizations to compete for the work. The report recommends that the city’s procurement department ensure that all staff in the Community Safety Division are trained on when a contract does not require a competitive bidding process and create a clearer definition of what kind of projects can be characterized as pilots.>>
<<This isn’t the first time in the past year that the city has considered appointing a hand-picked vendor to run a pilot program that would impact the police bureau.
In December, OPB found that a close relationship between police leadership and a company called ShotSpotter had laid the foundation for the city to extend a noncompetitive contract to ShotSpotter to operate a gunshot detection pilot program. Wheeler backtracked that agreement in January, instead choosing to open the bidding process up to other companies.
Despite this reverse, the city auditor’s office is also investigating SpotSpotter for possibly violating city lobbying regulations by influencing the contracting process. According to Becky Lamboley, an elections officer in the auditor’s office, her office is also investigating if TrustLab violated lobbying rules in their planned contract work with the city.>>
The Merc has a good analysis:
<<Here’s your morning City Hall bullshit: You may remember that, as a part of the city’s settlement with the Justice Department aiming to curb police violence, a “truth and reconciliation project” was approved with the idea of restoring trust between cops and the public. AND HERE COMES THE BULLSHIT: The city was ready to hand a $200,000 NO BID contract to a company called TrustLab, which a) has ZERO experience with restorative justice projects, and b) was stacked with retired police officers (and the current cop union president!) who would act as advisers… to curb the distrust they created? 🙄 Anyway, the city’s auditor office caught them red-handed, and while TrustLab was turned away, the city has put bidding for the project on hold indefinitely. (It must be difficult for City Hall to be run by both the police union AND the Portland Business Alliance.)>>
<<After two lofty but unsuccessful bids for state and federal offices, prominent Washington Republican Loren Culp has landed a quieter post: leading Klickitat County’s jail.
Culp, who was last seen unsuccessfully bidding to win Washington’s 4th Congressional District seat, started his new gig on March 1. He will make $94,162 as the jail administrator, according to Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer.
The job will task Culp with overseeing Klickitat County’s 49-bed jail.
The administrator ensures the safety and health of inmates and 14 corrections deputies staffed there. Besides lodging inmates, the jail transports detainees to and from the courthouse and to other jurisdictions.
“He’s going to be a valuable asset to our department,” Songer said.
The move pairs two controversial political figures in the small Columbia River Gorge community. Despite both making their names in small towns — Culp used to be the police chief of Republic, Washington, population 1,100 — they have made national headlines for being staunch opponents of what they call government overreach.
Both men are active in the constitutional sheriff movement. Supporters of the movement believe county sheriffs hold the highest authority in enforcing laws, even over state and federal governments.
At the height of the pandemic, Songer refused to enforce emergency lockdown orders mandated by Gov. Jay Inslee. He said he swore an oath to the “Supreme Judge of the Universe” and that he would arrest state workers who might try to levy fines against any businesses that stayed open.
That strain of politics led to Songer and Culp’s first meeting, the sheriff said.
Both men publicly refused to enforce a statewide gun safety law. In 2018, Washington voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that, among other things, enhanced background checks and raised the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21.
Their opposition won them attention from the Constitutional Sheriff and Police Chief’s Association. The organization invited both men to their annual event that year. They named Culp “Police Chief of the Decade” and Songer “Sheriff of the Year.”
In an interview Monday, Songer said that’s when they first got to know each other.
“I got to know Loren as a strong person who supports the Constitution,” Songer said. The 77-year-old won his third term as sheriff in November.
Culp’s hiring came at a time of some musical chairs within the department, Songer said. He promoted his previous jail administrator to undersheriff and reassigned Undersheriff Tim Nehr to detective at Nehr’s request.
A critic of Songer raised concerns about the hiring Monday. Lynn Mason, who helped organize a political action committee against Songer in the last election, said she doubted the hiring process looked very far for candidates.
“Really, all of the people he could find to fill that position, Loren Culp was the only one?” Mason said. “He has extremist views he’s going to bring to the county.”
According to Songer, it had been hard to find willing applicants to run the jail. He blamed it on long hours with no eligibility for overtime pay. In mid-February, he said, he called Culp.>>
<<As a gubernatorial candidate, Culp won the primary nomination and faced Inslee in the general. He received 1.7 million votes, the most ever by a GOP candidate for the office, according to The Seattle Times.
But Inslee secured nearly 2.3 million votes.
Culp then targeted a seat in Congress. He ran to unseat U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse in Washington’s 4th Congressional District after the Republican representative voted to impeach former president Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Culp won the former president’s endorsement, as well, but ultimately failed to clear the August primaries.
When asked about Culp’s qualifications in the hiring process, Songer said the former police chief was “not only an honorable individual, he’s a religious individual and supports the Constitution for the citizens.”
“He fits everything I’m looking for,” Songer said.>>
<<Chaos erupted at Portland City Hall Wednesday morning as heckling and protests over homeless policy led to a physical attack.
A KOIN 6 News crew captured video of the meeting where it appears a man hit a security guard while being forcibly removed from the chambers.
After escorting the man into the hallway, the security guard is seen holding his head and saying he “just hit his head” “Get off me,” a man is heard saying in the video. “I’m not fighting back! You shoved me, you shoved me, you shoved me in the door!”
The man was part of a group of about half a dozen who arrived at city hall with signs indicating they want city leaders to end the moratorium on passing out of tents and tarps. The group initially protested quietly, but after about 15 minutes they started to shout at and heckle city leaders — disrupting speakers testifying.
The attack happened while Commissioner Rene Gonzalez was defending the decision to stop passing out tents and tarps due to the hundreds of homeless fires across the city.
Prior to the attack, at least two other protestors were escorted out without incident.
After a brief recess, Mayor Ted Wheeler addressed what happened.
” I’m very disappointed that the disruptions led to violence,” said Wheeler. “There’s no room for violence in this chamber. I don’t care if you disagree profoundly — violence is not acceptable, and I will ask again for this form of democracy to work, everyone has to abide by the rules.”
The rest of that meeting was held virtually.>>
<<A physical clash erupted at a Portland City Council meeting Wednesday, marking the second time in as many weeks that outcry over Commissioner Rene Gonzalez’s ban on distributing tents and tarps to homeless people temporarily derailed proceedings.
The brouhaha began soon after a group of activists calling for an end to the ban started to verbally heckle elected leaders and interrupt speakers who had signed up to give public testimony.
“Let’s not have a shouting match in council,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said less than 30 minutes into the meeting. “I’m asking you. Let’s give it a try.”
As the outbursts continued, Wheeler called for a recess and ordered council chambers cleared.
The rowdy scene escalated after a City Hall security guard attempted to forcibly remove one of the activists from the chambers, video provided to The Oregonian/OregonLive shows.
Their altercation spilled into the hallway, with the activist claiming the security guard shoved him and the security guard claiming he’d been hit in the head.
The council meeting resumed several minutes later. A visibly miffed mayor chastised those behind the unruly behavior.
“I don’t care if you disagree profoundly with everything we say,” Wheeler said. “There is absolutely no place for violence in this chamber.”
Last week, the mayor was forced to shut down council proceedings after outbursts over the tent ban led to a testy, expletive-laden exchange.>>
<<Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler released a lengthy statement and video on Wednesday addressing homelessness, affordable housing, the mental health crisis and Oregon’s drug abuse problem. He also announced new temporary homeless shelter sites across the city.>>
<<Mayor Wheeler’s full statement: “One of the most challenging issues facing Portland today is our homeless crisis. Homelessness is a complex issue with many causes, requiring multiple solutions. I want to talk to you about the intersection between homelessness, behavioral health, and substance use disorder.
First, some context. How big is the problem? According to the 2022 official point in time count, thousands of people are living unsheltered on our streets, and unsheltered homelessness in Portland increased by 50% from 2019 to 2022. Far too many in our city are living in dangerous and squalid conditions. This is nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe for our unsheltered neighbors, and it also creates public health, safety and livability concerns for the entire community.
Let me be clear, there is nothing humane about the situation on Portland’s streets. And that’s why 94% of Portlanders identify homelessness as their top issue. Our collective goal should be to eliminate unsanctioned, unsheltered camping in Portland. To do that, we need a workable, and compassionate, means to connect people to whatever services they need to get off and stay off the streets. This could be shelter, housing, treatment, workforce training and other services.
Currently there are hundreds of unsanctioned camps spread out across virtually every neighborhood of our city, over a massive 146 square mile area. This makes it impossible to hire enough outreach workers to meaningfully connect people to services, including shelter. And due to the current dispersed nature of the homeless population, there’s no way to provide the kind of consistent case management or follow-up required to successfully connect people to the services they need. According to the Oregonian, 95% of the people experiencing homeless they surveyed indicated that they had never been approached by an outreach worker or offered any services.
The status quo is not a compassionate response. Leaving vulnerable Portlanders to live outside in the elements in dangerous conditions poses issues to both the individual experiencing homelessness and the community. There is overwhelming evidence that the homeless face incredible danger on the streets. A report recently found that 20% of all homicide victims in 2021 were homeless. The Multnomah County Health Department found that at least 193 homeless individuals died in 2021, a 53% increase over the prior year. Furthermore, they found the average age of death among homeless men to be 48, and among women 46. That is more than three decades younger than the average life expectancy in the United States. Between 2019 and 2021, Portland Fire & Rescue responded to over 2,500 fires in homeless encampments. Sadly, 31% of Portland’s fire deaths in 2021 were those in the unhoused population. The safety of both people living on the streets and our broader community is at risk.
What’s driving the homeless issue in Portland and how do we address it? People are homeless for many different reasons. Research suggests that the lack of affordable housing is the key driver, and the provision of that housing cannot be overlooked as a strategy to preventing and ending homelessness. But the intersections between homelessness, substance use, and behavioral health issues complicates the situation for many.
Many assume that people become homeless because they use drugs or have untreated behavioral health issues. The truth is much more complex than that. It is bi-directional. While some people undoubtedly become homeless because of drug use or mental health issues, the vast majority are homeless first, and then begin using drugs or developing behavioral health issues late
Let’s talk about drugs in Portland. In 2020, Oregon voters passed Measure 110 to become the first state in the nation to decriminalize personal possession of drugs. Measure 110 was also intended to provide significant new resources for desperately needed drug treatment programs. While I support the intent of Measure 110, the funding has been extremely slow to be deployed and the state’s drug treatment infrastructure continues to fail despite efforts of many people in the treatment community. Making matters worse, two relatively new, cheap, and widely available synthetic drugs are wreaking havoc in Portland and across the country.
The first is P2P Meth, sometimes called the “new meth.” This is insidious stuff. It can cause severe psychosis, brain damage, and anti-social behaviors including violent outbursts, destructive behavior, and extreme paranoia. Oregon has the highest meth use rates in the United States. In 2021, Meth contributed to nearly half of all homeless deaths in Multnomah County.
The second synthetic drug, Fentanyl, may be even worse, and our community is awash in it. It is cheaper and more potent than heroin.
According to the Multnomah County Medical Examiner, fentanyl overdoses in Portland increased 588% over a recent two-year period. Across all age groups, Oregon’s fentanyl death rate grew by almost 500% from 2019-2021.
Oregon leads the nation in the growth of youth fentanyl deaths rate, with deaths for kids ages 15-19 increasing over 900% between 2019 and 2021. Yet Oregon only has four youth treatment programs, all with months-long waiting lists.
We’ve seen the damage that fentanyl can cause. Just a few weeks ago a man intoxicated by some combination of alcohol, cannabis and fentanyl attacked a 78-year-old man and caused extensive harm as he was experiencing a mental health crisis reaction to the substances.
Recently, the Portland Police and the DEA made an arrest where they confiscated 2 kilos and 30,000 fentanyl pills. According to experts, this is enough fentanyl to kill 1 million people. And it’s not even the largest amount confiscated. Eugene police recently recovered 8 kilos in a drug operation.
My own personal view is that when outside players transport substances through our communities with the intent to harm or kill millions of Americans there is a name for this. Weapon of mass destruction. I appreciate that many in our federal government are starting to see it as such. Another side effect of these increasingly prevalent drugs worth noting is an unwillingness to be in enclosed spaces. Enclosed spaced like congregate shelters, motel rooms, or housing of any kind. The bottom line is that synthetic drugs are complicating the solutions required to successfully address homelessness.
When it comes to behavioral health issues, the story isn’t much better.
Oregon is routinely listed among the top states in terms of mental health treatment needs, but consistently ranks near, or at, the bottom of states when it comes to delivering needed services. The last list I saw put us at 49th out of 50 states. Our behavioral health systems are failing us all, but they hit the homeless population especially hard. 40% of homeless individuals tell us that they have either a significant drug use disorder or an untreated and disabling behavioral health issue.
20% tell us they have both. Oregon has an unfortunate history of under-investing in affordable housing, behavioral health and substance use treatment. And now we are seeing the results. The lack of critical services at the state, county and local level is why we have struggled to help people get off the streets.
Now it’s up to us to act to turn things around, and that’s what I am doing in my capacity as mayor. Continued innovation is the ONLY way we will make progress on the intersection between homelessness, substance use, and behavioral health issues.
Here is part of what we are doing. You have likely heard about the five resolutions recently brought to, and approved by, the city council. I want to explain to you the goals of these resolutions. They serve as a roadmap for the revitalization of Portland.
To put it simply, our homelessness plan consists of three building blocks.
The three building blocks are:
First, a significant investment in affordable housing,
Second, moving the unsheltered homeless closer to safety and services,
And third, the creation of a criminal justice referral system that incentivizes those with a criminal history to seek housing, services, and/or treatment.
Regarding affordable housing, we are working with our state partners to increase tax abatements and deferrals to make more affordable housing projects pencil out. We are asking the state legislature to allow us to use urban renewal areas to create more affordable housing. And locally, we are identifying up to 400 shovel ready sites owned by the city of Portland that could be used for affordable housing.
We need over 20,000 units of housing just in the Portland area to close the affordability gap. It took years to grow this gap, and we must act now to reverse it. Regarding bringing services closer to people who need them, rather than trying to deploy services to hundreds of unsanctioned encampments, we are creating a limited number of larger Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites across the city that could provide navigation to drug treatment, healthcare, mental health services, job training and other services. This is an idea that was created with direct input from people with lived experience.
The city council has already committed $27 million to our alternative shelter site concept, and we hope that the state and Multnomah County will work with us to deliver these critical services. And while we are seeking to reduce and ultimately eliminate problematic unsanctioned campsites across the city, we are NOT seeking to criminalize homelessness. Rather, we are working with the DA and others to create a referral program into services that could allow people to expunge older warrants.
Some have criticized this approach. They argue that funds should only go toward the so-called housing first model and prioritize housing, not the alternative shelter approach. I want to be clear, I support building affordable housing. And in no way will I ever endorse a policy that criminalizes poverty. I believe in acting to immediately help those left to linger on our streets. When I say this, I mean today, NOW. Not next year or five years from now.
Every day that people live unsheltered on the streets they are exposed to drugs, potential behavioral health issues, and dangerous criminal elements. Some would have us leave our fellow Portlanders on the streets. I cannot, in good conscious, ignore people to suffer on the streets.
According to a study conducted by Home Forward, we know that people living unsheltered on our streets are waiting years, sometimes more than five, for affordable housing. We need to act now to save lives and reduce harm. We can both create more affordable housing options AND provide immediate services to those who are struggling to survive on the streets.
Finally, I must make it clear that cities across America are struggling with these same issues. Portland is by no means alone. This means we need the federal, state and county governments to work with us to address the complexities of homelessness. In short, I believe we will offer a bold new direction to Portland. This is what Portlanders want.
And no city, certainly not Portland, can wait any longer.”>>
THE COP LOBBY
<<If you’ve been watching television lately, you may have spotted an unusual series of ads that might seem more at home in the run-up to an election. They target the Multnomah County District Attorney, county commissioners and the county sheriff in an apparent effort to pressure them into doing more about Portland’s crime issues.
For most of the 32 years that KGW’s Pat Dooris has worked in Portland, the Multnomah County DA’s office has kept a pretty low profile. That’s changed significantly these days — and not necessarily because DA Mike Schmidt has tried to take the office into the spotlight, but because the spotlight is being shined on him.
A privately funded group called “People for Portland” — a frequent political gadfly over the past few years — has been targeting Schmidt with a series of negative ads.
“Under the policies of DA Mike Schmidt we have record shootings and murders — and while jail beds sit empty, too many crimes like vandalism and burglary go unprosecuted. Portland is a Schmidt-show. Take action to save it,” one of the group’s ads says.
Dan Lavey, one of the organizers of People for Portland, is happy to echo the sentiment from the group’s ad when asked directly.
“Well, Portland is a Schmidt-show. And the fact that an elected official like the elected DA is a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution is frankly unacceptable,” Lavey said. “And we need change in policies. Now we need more prosecutions. We need empty jail beds that are open and we need a DA who does more than hold a press conference, and without offering any new solutions to make Portland safe again.”
Lavey has a deep background in Oregon politics, mostly on the Republican side of the political spectrum. He’s been trying to use his politically savvy to drum up grassroots pressure on Portland’s elected leaders, goading them to take action.
People for Portland has been around for about two years. Lavey said that it has about 1,500 people donating money and 18,000 who’ve shared their email addresses.>>
<<The county’s statement contained a report that Schmidt sent out in early February. In it, he reported that the number of cases referred to his office by the Portland Police Bureau had fallen sharply compared to before the pandemic — just 36% of the misdemeanor cases they’d usually see between 2016 and 2019.
Schmidt wrote that most of those reductions involve traffic crimes, which is unsurprising; Portland police don’t have a traffic unit anymore. He also pointed to thefts, trespassing and possession of controlled substances. On the last point, he pointed to the impact of Measure 110, which decriminalized user amounts of drugs that might have previously resulted in possession charges.
At the same time, KGW senior investigative reporter Kyle Iboshi found late last year that Schmidt’s office has been prosecuting less than half of the misdemeanor theft cases that are brought to them by police.
Schmidt countered at the time that his office prosecutes all the cases that they have sufficient evidence to pursue.
For background, Schmidt campaigned as a criminal justice reformer. In 2020, he was elected in a landslide, receiving more than 70% of the vote.
But Schmidt ticked off a lot of people when he announced in August 2020 that he would not prosecute more than 520 people charged during protests with “interfering with a police officer” and other non-violent crimes.
That led to the impression, at least among Schmidt’s opponents, that rioters were all simply let off the hook — even though people accused of violent crimes were most certainly prosecuted.
As all this was playing out, the federal government quietly dismissed dozens of its own protest-related cases in Portland.>>
<<People For Portland is also taking aim at the Multnomah County Sheriff and Board of Commissioners for not using all available jail beds, allegedly leaving dangerous people on the streets.
County spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti said that the premise of the ad campaign is wrong; that the county is not operating under any limited jail capacity and that Multnomah County has funded 1,117 jail beds for several years.
Ten years ago, the county funded 1,310 jail beds. It remained at that level until 2017, when Multnomah County cut funding and phased out 118 jail beds — referencing “an effort to reduce reliance on jail bed use in the local public safety system.”
At that point, the number of jail beds stood at 1,192. It remained that way until 2021, when the board cut another 75 beds — taking it to the current 1,117. The budget note said that the cut was part of public safety reform efforts.
Late last year, Multnomah County released an annual grand jury report that looked at the status of each of the county’s jails. Among many other things, the report noted that the Inverness Jail continues to suffer from “critically” short staffing, which reports have observed since at least 2017. Meanwhile, the maximum security Multnomah County Detention Center downtown has been operating for 40 years when it was supposed to have a lifespan of 20 years.
Corrections staff told the grand jury that the jail facilities function best “when operating below full capacity.”
Throughout Multnomah County’s adult jail system, the report noted, a little over half of inmates are sitting in jail awaiting a court date due to delays in the criminal justice system, particularly the shortage of public defenders. On average, inmates wait a few weeks to a month. In some cases they wait more than 150 days.
Regardless, Lavey’s group is correct that there are fewer available jail beds than a decade ago — and for reasons that Multnomah County hasn’t entirely made clear, about 30% of beds are not being used at a given time.>>