7/21/2023 News Roundup


<<A John Day police funding ballot measure couldn’t muster enough support last year, and with the sheriff’s office feeling the effects of the fallout, Grant County leaders are debating whether to return to the ballot box.

The judge and commissioners of the Grant County Court, the county government’s top elected body, discussed putting a five-year public safety levy on the November ballot at a Wednesday meeting. The debate came after John Day, the county’s largest city, dissolved its police department in 2022.

John Day sought a levy of its own in a 2021 special election, according to the Blue Mountain Eagle. And although a majority voted for the measure, which would have added $50,000 to the police budget, the small city couldn’t clear the 50% voter turnout threshold required to pass a new tax.

Grant County Sheriff Todd McKinley said John Day losing its small police force — only two officers at the time of its closure — has further strained his department. The sheriff’s office has eight people to patrol the entire county, he said. That includes himself and other administrators.

At 7,200 people, Grant County is one of Oregon’s smallest counties by population. But McKinley said the county’s residents are spread across 4,500 square miles, meaning deputies are often traveling long distances to respond to calls. With the John Day Police Department gone, the sheriff’s office is the last law enforcement agency in the county.

McKinley said he needs funding to hire two more deputies to help make up for the gap left behind by the defunct John Day Police Department. The Grant County budget committee also wants to boost the sheriff’s budget and recommended a five-year levy expected to raise $400,000 per year for public safety.>>

<<Dealing with shrinking tax bases, rural counties across Oregon have struggled to maintain their sheriff’s offices. Josephine County voters rejected ballot measures for public safety funding both before and after the sheriff’s office handed out pink slips in 2012. When the Wheeler County sheriff announced his resignation in 2018, the entire department decided to leave with him. At the time, staff members were buying their own guns and personally changing the oil on their patrol vehicles, according to the East Oregonian.

Grant County also considered another major change to public safety: the elimination of the justice court. The Grant County Justice Court presides over lower level criminal and civil cases, like misdemeanors and small claims. Should the county shutter it, all of the justice court’s cases would be bumped up to circuit court.>>



<<The Portland Police Bureau recently released data from 2022 which includes data and statistics for crime and policing from last year.>>

<<During the community meeting Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell discussed some challenges and critical problems that he said officers endured last year, including a record number of 94 homicide investigations.>>

<<Another issue brought up by Chief Lovell was the increasing rates of property crime they saw last year. He also discussed a record number of deadly crashes involving pedestrians, where PPB said 2022 saw the highest number of those cases since 1948.>>

<<Chief Lovell said that with the high volume of crashes he believes it’s easy for officers to let the little stuff go by the wayside, “and then when we didn’t have the traffic division. I’d instructed officers to concentrate on the safety behaviors that were putting lives in danger and leading to fatal crashes.”

Chief Lovell went on to explain that due to staffing shortages they’re also having issues proactively policing the community. The bureau said they received 1,500 applications last year and swore in only 80. They also reported that they lost 63 officers, which means they gained 17 in the year.

Chief Lovell also mentioned 100 sworn members are also eligible for retirement this year, leading him to emphasize the need to recruit more officers.>>

<<The report also noted how the sheer number of overdoses is overwhelming the narcotics unit and limiting their ability to investigate other drug related matters.>>



<< A federal arrest warrant was issued for a Clark County man accused in the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol after he missed the court dates running up to his trial scheduled for this week.

Court records show that Marc Anthony Bru of Hazel Dell was going to act as his own attorney in the criminal trial that was supposed to start July 17th in Washington, D.C, but the federal court says he failed to show up for a pre-trial conference June 26.

In recent court filings federal prosecutors quoted Bru’s profanity-filled Twitter post June 28 that said “…if they want me they will come get me” and “I will not submit to a totalitarian belligerent de facto regime.”

Court records show Bru failed to appear again at a June 30 status conference.

On July 6, Bru was supposed to attend his rescheduled pre-trial conference. When he did not show up the federal judge then issued a warrant for his arrest.

This isn’t the first time the court system has had difficulty with Bru’s whereabouts.

In a civil suit filed by the District of Columbia against Bru and others accused of belonging to the Proud Boys for damages to the city on January 6, 2021, lawyers say they spent months trying to serve Bru with the court summons.

Court records show Bru had known the lawyers were trying to find him and avoided their efforts. A federal judge finally gave special permission to email Bru the summons.

Bru is one of 10 people – nine men and one woman – from Oregon and Southwest Washington to be accused in the capitol attack. Of those 10, five have pleaded guilty and taken plea bargains. The remaining cases are pending – including former FBI agent Jared Wise and former Washington County Republican party official Reed Knox Christensen.

Christensen is scheduled for trial September 11th.>>



<<WW has reviewed the court records of those 41 inmate firefighters whose sentences were commuted and found that 11 were charged with felonies after their release. Two others were charged with misdemeanors.>>

<<That rate of recidivism is perhaps not surprising. According to a report released in May by the state’s Criminal Justice Commission, 51% of convicts on post-prison supervision in Oregon are arrested within three years; 35% were convicted of a crime. The recidivism rate has been dropping in recent years, commission director Ken Sanchagrin tells WW.

“We are pretty consistent with the rest of the country.”

The commission also issued a report last year focused on recidivism rates among inmates who received clemency from Brown early in the pandemic. That report found 18% were arrested within a year. Those commutations differed from later clemencies because they were all for crimes not against persons, Sanchagrin explains.>>



<<City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez is no longer pursuing two controversial changes to the voter-approved charter reforms that 58% of Portland voters approved last November.

“After conferring with my colleagues, it has become clear there is a lack of support within City Hall for the referral measures addressing adjustments to the size of council and the ranked-choice voting method,” Gonzalez said in a statement Thursday afternoon.>>