8/31/23 News Update


<<Two public defenders filed lawsuits against Washington County on Tuesday alleging racial discrimination by deputies in the county courthouse and corrections center.

The first case filed by Metropolitan Public Defender Chloé Clay — who is Black — alleges unlawful discrimination in place of public accommodation and seeks $375,000 in damages, as first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

According to court documents, Clay alleges that David Lyle, a white Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputy, was working as a court security officer and “refused, delayed and denied” her access to a public courtroom while allowing white attorneys to enter the courtroom unimpeded.

Clay alleges that on Nov. 14, 2022, she entered the Law Enforcement Center shortly after 8:15 a.m. to pick up a plea petition from one of her clients who was in custody at the Washington County Jail and was set to represent her client at a 9 a.m. hearing.

After noticing the jail lobby doors were locked, Clay says she walked to the LEC Courtroom and asked Deputy Lyle for help and identified herself as an attorney. Lyle claimed he was busy and directed her to the public window next to the courtroom — where a staff member told her that a jail deputy was finishing their break and would return to the jail, according to court documents.

After a deputy failed to show up at the jail, Clay returned to the LEC, nodded at Deputy Lyle and entered the courtroom, leading the deputy to chase her and tell her she had to leave, the lawsuit claims.

The deputy asked Clay — who has worked as a Metropolitan Public Defender since August 2022 — for ID to prove she was an attorney, the suit claims, noting Clay had previously been in the courtroom without being asked to prove she was an attorney.

According to court documents, the Oregon bar stopped issuing bar cards, so Clay offered to give Lyle her bar number. She alleges Lyle refused the offer and said because he didn’t know her, she was not allowed to enter the courtroom and ushered her out of the courtroom’s breezeway and back into the hallway.

The lawsuit claims that Deputy Lyle let Clay into the courtroom after a court interpreter who happened to walk by confirmed to the deputy that Clay was an attorney.>>

<<The suit continues, “that same morning, Ms. Clay saw at least two white attorneys freely walk into the LEC Courtroom without being questioned despite activating the metal detectors as they passed into the LEC Courtroom. Deputy Lyle did not stop, delay, challenge, or require another person to identify or vouch for either of these white attorneys.”

After Clay notified the Washington County Sheriff’s Office of the incident in a tort claim, the agency reassigned Lyle to work as security staff at the main Washington County Courthouse. Clay alleges that after the incident, Lyle has glared at her in the courthouse.>>

<<The lawsuit claims that over the last year, other Black and Brown professionals reported similar instances of discrimination by WCSO employees — including questioning who they were, being prevented from entering courtrooms, being asked if they were an interpreter and being told they “’do not look like an investigator.’”

“These experiences demonstrate a pattern and practice of racial discrimination by Washington County Sheriff’s employees against people of color in violation of the law. White attorneys and investigators entering the LEC facilities are not treated in the same discriminatory manner,” the suit alleges.

The second lawsuit was filed by Metropolitan Public Defender Alyne Sanchez, who is Latina. Sanchez seeks $225,000 in damages from Washington County for unlawful discrimination in place of public accommodation. The lawsuit claims Sanchez continues to face racial stigmatization, humiliation and embarrassment.

According to court documents, there were three separate incidents in which she was discriminated against in the Washington County Courthouse and the Washington County Community Corrections Center in December 2022 and January 2023.

Sanchez alleges she was treated “like an intruder,” was refused access, questioned if she was an attorney and claims that deputies failed to keep her safe when she was targeted by threatening hate speech from members of the Proud Boys in the courtroom.

During these incidents, the suit claims that WCSO deputies allowed white attorneys to freely access courtrooms and the corrections center; did not question them about their status as an attorney; and “kept them safe when the need arose.”

According to court documents, on Dec. 7, 2022, Sanchez notified a deputy at the entrance of the corrections center that she was meeting with a client who was being held in the county jail.

The deputy allowed her into a meeting room to wait for her client, then asked if she had proof that she was an attorney, Sanchez claims. She argues that she gave the deputy one of her business cards and explained there are no IDs issued to attorneys to prove they are attorneys.

WCSO does not routinely require or ask attorneys who are meeting clients at the corrections center to prove they are attorneys, according to the suit.

During another incident on Jan. 20, 2023, Sanchez claims she was scheduled to appear with her client in the LEC Courtroom at 8:15 a.m.

After briefly meeting with her client in the hallway, she tried to enter the courtroom however Deputy Lyle stood in front of her to block her from entering the courtroom and stated “in a raised voice” that she could not go inside, Sanchez alleges.

Sanchez explained to Deputy Lyle that she was an attorney and needed to enter the courtroom to check in with court staff; however, Lyle said she needed to wait until her name was called, the suit claims. Court documents state while she waited, Lyle let white attorneys enter the courtroom without questioning them or asking for proof that they were attorneys.

Around 8:45 a.m., Sanchez explained to her supervisor and another public defender, Becca Blaney, that Lyle refused to let her in, court documents stated. Sanchez tried to enter the courtroom with Blaney however, “Deputy Lyle again stopped Ms. Sanchez and stated that she was an interpreter and pointed at her bag. Interpreters were not allowed to go inside the courtroom with bags,” court documents claim.

After Blaney corrected Lyle, stating Sanchez was an attorney, the deputy allowed her to enter the courtroom, the suit claims.

A week later, on Jan. 27, Sanchez appeared in court between where a crowd of “self-identified Proud Boys” were making racist remarks, the suit alleges.

According to court documents, “when Proud Boys members observed Ms. Sanchez, they directed their threatening, racist remarks toward her. Ms. Sanchez felt unsafe as a result.”

Court documents claim at least one WCSO deputy was in the courtroom and failed to intervene in the “Proud Boys’ threatening hate Speech” and didn’t ask Proud Boys members to leave. Sanchez argues that deputies did not speak to her to ensure her safety.

Sanchez alleges that due to the inaction of WCSO, she was escorted out of the courtroom by a public defender manager.

The suit says despite the sheriff’s office receiving a prior complaint against Deputy Lyle, they failed to correct his conduct or prevent it from happening again, leading to discrimination against Sanchez.>>


<<It’s not the first time the office has been accused of racism. In 2019, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned a Black man’s conviction after they concluded the prosecutor in the case, now-District Attorney Kevin Barton, had struck the lone Black juror from the jury.

Clay filed a lawsuit in Washington County Circuit Court on Tuesday over one specific incident. On Nov. 14, 2022, Clay alleges Washington County Sheriff’s Office Deputy David Lyle prevented her from entering a public courtroom while at the same time allowing white attorneys to enter without issue.

Alyne Sanchez, a Latina Washington County public defender, filed a separate lawsuit Tuesday alleging, among other things, a nearly identical incident with the same deputy>>

<<According to the Oregon State Bar Association, only 56 attorneys — or 0.36% of the state’s licensed lawyers — identified themselves as Black women as of last month. >>

<<Clay says that reality means she must always put in extra effort to make sure her male colleagues take her seriously. It means dressing nicer than her often more casual male colleagues. It means eschewing traditionally Black hairstyles and straightening her hair instead. It means being more prepared than her white colleagues, because a slip up from a young Black woman will be judged more harshly. And it means watching her facial expressions in court and staying more calm than her white, male colleagues.

Clay said she constantly checks herself to make sure she isn’t coming across as a “mad Black woman” or too aggressive.

“I’m constantly trying to not hurt my client because of who I am,” she said. “There’s some things I can’t change: The fact that I’m a female and the fact that I’m Black.”

She is female and Black in a county that is nearly 80% white, according to U.S. Census data, and where Black incarceration rates outpace national trends.

She is also Black and female in a county where lawyers describe the district attorney’s office as “muscular.”

“You better be prepared for trial,” said Ethan Levi, a criminal defense and civil rights plaintiffs attorney at the same law firm representing Clay. “They’re not going to make a deal unless it’s a weak case or there’s some big mitigating factor that works against them.”>>

<<In a June 16 sentencing hearing before Washington County Circuit Court Judge Erik Buchér, Clay was arguing for leniency for a Latino man charged with harassment and criminal trespassing. She told Bucher it’s important to consider sentencing disparities and the demographics of Oregon’s incarcerated population. Buchér cut her off before she could finish.

“I don’t have time to spend going over statistics of our population in prison,” he said. “I know it’s disproportionate and everything, but then so what you’re trying to tell me then is because your client is Hispanic, by me sending him to prison I’m somehow a racist or something? Why are you bringing these statistics up regarding his race? Would you be doing this if he was white?”

Four seconds of silence followed Buchér’s insistence that race was not relevant to his decision-making. Then Clay pushed back. Race is very relevant, she said, adding that it had been a factor in how the court had treated her client.

They went back and forth:

“So you think I’m biased due to your client’s race?” Buchér asked.

“I do think there has been bias in this case toward him,” Clay answered.

“So you’re saying that I’m biased due to your client’s race? That’s what you’re telling me?” he asked, in apparent disbelief.

“I think it’s part of it,” Clay told the judge. She asked for a chance to explain why she believed that.

Buchér said no. He told her he would not allow her to stand in his courtroom accusing him of bias.

“You’re calling me a racist,” he said, sounding more incensed. “How long have you been practicing, Ms. Clay? One year? And you’re going to come in here and call me a racist? Just because your client is Hispanic?”

The back and forth ended with Buchér placing strict limits on how he wanted to interact with Clay in the future.

“You and me and the state, we’re never meeting again in chambers or anything,” Buchér said. “Especially after you stand there and say that I’m biased toward your client due to his race. I’ve never had an attorney even suggest that, let alone state it in open court on the record. So this is never going to happen again. Not with me.”

It was a remarkable exchange between a young, Black, female lawyer raising well-established sentencing discrepancies and a white, male judge with 23 years of experience practicing law confronted with the possibility of his own complicity in those systemic biases. >>

<<Clay’s lawsuit and her increasing disenchantment with Oregon and Washington County come just as the state is experiencing a dire public defender shortage.

Clay says an ideal caseload would be 40 to 50; with that many cases, she says, she’s thriving because she’s busy but has the bandwidth to be attentive to even her most difficult clients. Right now, she’s usually handling between 70 and 100 clients at a time.

Speaking on OPB’s Think Out Loud in March, Metropolitan Public Defender Executive Director Carl MacPherson — Clay’s boss — said the 60-year-old promise of a right to an attorney has not been fulfilled. Instead, he said, the system is seemingly designed to overburden everyone working within it, making it unethical for defense attorneys to keep accepting new clients.

“I think the system in the United States was built and designed to do something, and that was, really, to oppress and disenfranchise people,” MacPherson said in that interview. “The number of people we police, arrest, charge, convict, incarcerate, just continues to increase.”

More than three years after the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically slowed the courts, the public defense crisis has only gotten worse. The resulting workload is grinding people down.

Clay hopes more BIPOC attorneys will come work in Washington County. The system needs them.

“But the unfortunate side to that is that they’re probably gonna face similar discrimination. I would love to stop it before it happens,” she said. “It’s just not OK.”

Carrying between 70-100 cases means public defenders are in and out of court and jail — meeting with clients, going to hearings, retrieving or filing paperwork — all day.

In her lawsuit against Washington County, Clay alleges that on Nov. 14, 2022, Sheriff’s Deputy David Lyle chased after her as she walked into the Law Enforcement Center Courtroom in Hillsboro.

Her complaint accuses Lyle of kicking her out after she couldn’t prove she was an attorney. Clay, who had explained to Lyle she was there to retrieve paperwork for a hearing that morning, said she offered her Oregon Bar Association number as evidence but was rebuffed. Lyle insisted that he did not know her and so she could not enter. There are no Bar Association identification cards or other forms of ID issued to attorneys.

“Ms. Clay saw at least two white attorneys freely walk into the LEC Courtroom without being questioned despite activating the metal detectors as they passed into the LEC Courtroom,” her lawsuit says.

“Deputy Lyle did not stop, delay, challenge, or require another person to identify or vouch for either of these white attorneys.”

Clay’s lawsuit claims the incident is part of a “pattern and practice of racial discrimination,” and that several other Black and brown professionals have been questioned by Washington County Sheriff’s Office employees, “asked if they were an interpreter,” prevented from entering courtrooms and told they “do not look like an investigator.”

Since notifying the county of her intent to file a lawsuit, the complaint says, Clay sees Lyle at the courthouse daily where he “has glared at Ms. Clay, creating an uncomfortable setting for Ms. Clay to practice law.”

Alyne Sanchez, the other public defender suing Washington County, leveled a nearly identical allegation in her lawsuit.

On Jan. 20, according to the suit, Sanchez had a scheduled appearance at the same Law Enforcement Center courtroom Clay says she was blocked from entering. Lyle “prevented her from entering by placing his body in front of her and stating in a raised voice that she could not go in,” her lawsuit claims.

Sanchez said that after telling Lyle she was an attorney, he made her wait outside the courtroom until her case was called. It was a departure from the norm, made all the more distressing because she claims Lyle allowed other white attorneys into the room at the same time he kept her out. When she later attempted to enter with her supervisor, Lyle told Sanchez that “interpreters were not allowed to go inside the courtroom with bags,” according to her complaint.

A week later, Sanchez said in court documents, a courtroom deputy didn’t intervene when members of the right-wing group the Proud Boys in court for a hearing started yelling threatening, racist remarks at her.

In a written statement to OPB, Sanchez said she has worked hard to become an attorney so she could help people and make a difference.

“And still, it’s not enough,” she said. “In the span of a few seconds, Deputy Lyle made me feel like I was nothing. I have never felt so powerless.”

In a similar incident, on Dec. 7, 2022, Sanchez said a jail deputy said they didn’t believe she was an attorney and demanded some form of proof, a requirement that she says is never asked of white attorneys.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office needs to be held accountable for “continuing to hire people who are racist” and who “feel like they can treat people who don’t look like them as less than,” Sanchez said.

“It’s so infuriating to see all the racism in this county and to continue to see blatant racism by officers and others in the criminal system,” Sanchez said. “I am so tired of it.”>>



<<The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office has installed new vending machines stocked with Narcan to help combat opioid overdoses.

The three free Narcan vending machines at the Clackamas County Jail, the transition center, and at the parole and probation office – all located in Oregon City.

The sheriff’s office hopes the machines will not only help with drug overdoses but also bypass the stigma of reaching out for help. >>

<<The vending machines will also offer personal hygiene and health care products donated by agency partners.>>



<< Multnomah County probation officer has filed suit against her employer, the county’s Department of Community Justice, alleging gender discrimination and retaliation. According to the complaint, filed in federal court Aug. 28, the officer, Holly Fischer, was “treated like a perpetrator” after accusing a co-worker, her boyfriend at the time, of sodomizing her without her consent on St. Patrick’s Day 2017. The co-worker, Kevin Novinger, claimed the act never happened, and prosecutors declined to press charges. WW reported the allegation last year after the county concluded Novinger was lying about what happened that night (“The Odd Squad,” WW, Aug. 10, 2022). Fischer’s lawsuit alleges what happened next. She says she was forced to take a demotion in 2019 after making two errors during firearms training. The county subsequently forwarded “ninety pages of email communications and allegations of misconduct” to a psychologist, who ruled her unfit for service. The ruling was overturned after another psychologist found the emails “were consistent with an individual processing a traumatic event” and that the first doctor had assumed the assault didn’t occur. Fischer returned to her job as a probation officer in December 2021, although she continues to be the subject of “negative gossip” and “unfounded oral reprimands,” according to the complaint. The Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries has already dismissed multiple complaints by Fischer regarding her treatment by the county.>>



<<A woman who spent 16 years of her childhood in the state’s foster care system is suing the Oregon Department of Human Services, alleging the agency placed her in foster homes where she suffered abuse and failed to protect her when they knew.

The woman filed the $14.9 million lawsuit earlier this month in Multnomah County Circuit Court against the agency, which has not yet filed a response. In 1998, as a 7-month old baby, she entered the foster care system because her parents had addiction, court records show. For the next 16 years, she was shuffled among different foster homes and state-run residential programs, where she faced physical, sexual and emotional abuse, according to the lawsuit.

“DHS made no effort to intervene at various times to protect plaintiff by removing plaintiff from such abuse and, in fact, continued to place the plaintiff into foster homes where this abuse continued throughout a significant portion of the time plaintiff was under the care, custody and control of the Defendant, DHS,” the complaint states.>>

<<It’s the latest child welfare-related lawsuit to hit the state agency, which also faces a separate federal class-action complaint over its placement of children in hotel rooms for extended lengths. A federal judge in July ordered the appointment of a special master, essentially an outside expert, to recommend to the court how to end the practice, Oregon Public Broadcasting has reported.

In this case, some of the details are murky because — as the lawsuit points out — the state agency would not give her complete records about her time in the state system and instead blacked out information about the foster parents and homes.

“Because defendant has refused to provide unredacted records regarding plaintiff’s placements, plaintiff is unable to determine the identity of the abusers and homes where this abuse occurred,” the lawsuit states.

“During this 16-year time period, as referenced in DHS’s own heavily redacted case file, DHS became aware that plaintiff was being physically, sexually and mentally abused.”

The lawsuit includes a redacted therapist’s note, which acknowledges the girl and her siblings were moved from a foster home over concerns about harm and sexual abuse in the home. At the time, the plaintiff was 6 years old.

The lawsuit alleges the agency was negligent and failed to properly monitor and screen foster parents.

Due to the trauma involved, the woman needs access to her complete unredacted agency records to identify her abusers and understand the extent of the injuries, the lawsuit states.

Due to the abuse, she also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other conditions that decrease her quality of life years later, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks $14.9 million in damages, including past and future medical expenses, the loss of future income and noneconomic damages.>>



<<After a years-long barrage of bad news about Portland’s central city, a task force spearheaded by Gov. Tina Kotek is busy figuring out what needs to be done in order to get the area on a path to recovery. But some recent data suggests that “recovery” looks very different depending on what metrics you use and the lens through which they’re examined.

Many Portlanders judge the central city by their experiences and appearances. If they head downtown to eat, go shopping or see a show, their personal impressions are the only metrics that matter. If they didn’t have a good time, they’re less likely to come back.

Then there’s the news coverage. The Story has talked about businesses and organizations that have left the central city in recent years, even mainstays like REI. At the same time, there’s the coverage of summer festivals and other events that bring thousands of people out, things like the Waterfront Blues Festival, Pride or Rose Festival events.

Finally, there’s the 1,000-foot view — looking at the data. KGW reported previously on a study from the University of Toronto and UC Berkeley that looked at the number of phones in a city’s downtown at a specific time, comparing that activity to the same time period in 2019, pre-pandemic.

At the time of that report last year, Portland ranked 60 out of 62 cities for recovery. The researchers said downtown Portland had only recovered about 41% of the activity it had in 2019.

Those numbers have since been updated, and they suggest that downtown Portland’s situation hasn’t gotten any better. In fact, according to the study, it has gotten a little worse — Portland fell to number 61 out of 62, with only 37% of the visitors it had in 2019. The city ranked just ahead of San Francisco at dead last.

The study’s results are pretty damning, but it left some of us scratching our heads. How can the city only be getting worse, when more people seem to be coming back for events, new restaurants and shows? As it turns out, the answer has a lot to do with the study’s parameters and methodology.

Over the past weekend, the Oregonian/OregonLive published a story that took a deeper look at the study. After taking stock of the parameters, they realized that its definition of “downtown Portland” was quite narrow.

The study only included the areas between the Hawthorne and Burnside bridges, going as far west as Southwest Broadway. The area does not include central city spots that tend to attract many visitors — Powell’s Books, the Portland Art Museum, the Keller Auditorium or the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. It does have Pioneer Courthouse Square and the waterfront, but the rest is mostly hotels, shops, government buildings and office space.

In fact, the area studied is only a part of what the city of Portland considers to be downtown, and it’s likely much smaller than what most Portlanders think of as downtown.

The Portland Metro Chamber, what used to be called the Portland Business Alliance, did its own study of downtown recovery — looking at a much broader area, but using similar methods of tracking phone locations. The area covered by the chamber’s study roughly goes from Old Town down to Portland State and out toward I-405. According to them, downtown Portland is actually on the upswing.

“The slow and steady progress has occurred on two very distinct fronts, which is first off, visitors — people that want to come to our festivals, even restaurants visit our stores — that has slowly but surely been creeping up and is nearly 70% recovered,” said Andrew Hoan, president and CEO of the Portland Metro Chamber. “So that is a good story. That’s the sort of recovery momentum you want to see.”

During July of this year, Hoan said, 2.4 million people came into the downtown district, probably the highest point since early 2020. It isn’t where the city was at back in 2019 — downtown saw 3.7 million visitors in June 2019, according to the chamber’s data — but it is a big improvement. There wasn’t a single month this year that didn’t see more visitors than last year.

“And then secondly, we also really look granularly at the employees, and you can distinguish them because, you know, employees sit in office buildings most of the day,” Hoan continued. “And what we have seen recently is something very encouraging, which is that number is now more than 50% recovered. So we were really challenged, I think, towards the end of last year — the momentum has started to swing. And we’re seeing positive growth in both those who are coming to sort of play and shop and have fun in our festivals, and also to … the lifeblood of the downtown, which are the workers that come into these office buildings. We’re starting to see them come back in, and that to me is going to be the bellwether of our recovery.”>>


<<A newly formed group of hospitality industry leaders in the downtown Portland core is hoping to bring visitors and Portlanders back to the heart of the city.>>

<<downtown businesses are taking matters, and litter, into their own hands by starting up a new committee called Hospitality Takes Action.>>

<<Dozens of volunteers met up at hotels around downtown to cleanup several blocks with trash bags and trash pickers in hand.>>



<<Oregon is one of nearly two dozen states that can require someone to surrender their weapons if a court decides that they’re at risk of hurting someone, commonly called a “red flag law” or Extreme Risk Protection Order. But according to a recent report from state auditors, not enough people are aware that this option exists.

Under Oregon’s ERPO system, first passed by lawmakers in 2017, family members or law enforcement officers can petition a civil court for a special protective order if they believe that someone has access to deadly weapons and is at risk of hurting themselves or others. If the order is approved by a judge, the person must then turn over their weapons to law enforcement, a licensed gun dealer, family member or a friend within 24 hours.

On Wednesday, the Oregon Audits Division released a new advisory report that examines how ERPOs are being used in the state. While not an official state audit, the report went through a similar quality assurance process. It found that the state is likely not using this tool to its full potential.>>

<<Over the last four years, Oregon’s rate of firearm-related suicide has been 42% higher than the national rate, the auditors noted. The state’s overall rate of death from firearms, on the other hand, is roughly equal to the national rate.

ERPOs are used very rarely in Oregon, according to the auditors. Of all the protective orders requested between 2018 and 2021, less than 1% were ERPOs — 485 requests in all. Protective orders for family abuse made up the majority of requests, almost 59%, followed by stalking protective orders at 21%.

There is a higher bar for successfully getting an ERPO granted than other types of protective orders. While the others require a “preponderance of evidence,” ERPOs require “clear and convincing evidence” of impending harm. The auditors noted that 78% of ERPO requests were actually approved by a judge. Of those approvals, 76% originated with law enforcement.>>

<<During the four-year period examined by auditors, 29 of Oregon’s 36 counties saw at least one ERPO filed, but numbers by county varied widely. In all, 15 counties had 10 or more ERPOs filed. Washington County had the most at 94, followed by 78 in Deschutes County.

But on a per capita basis, ERPOs were actually most common in comparatively rural counties. With eight requested in Lake County, it had a rate of 99.1 per 100,000 residents. Josephine County, with 45 total ERPOs, had a rate of 52. Lane County had the lowest rate of use per capita, at just 3.9.>>


<<Auditors with the State of Oregon are working to raise awareness of “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” with the hope of reducing gun violence.

Oregon’s Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law establishes a process to prevent people at risk of causing harm to themselves or others from accessing deadly weapons, with family members or law enforcement able to file petitions for such orders. Commonly known as “red flag” cases, the law aims to reduce gun violence by empowering courts, local law enforcement, and state agencies including the Oregon State Police and Judicial Department to collaboratively address and mitigate high-risk situations.>>

<<According to Oregon’s Audit Division, ERPOs can be effective in lowering firearm-related suicide. Statistics show the rate of firearm-related suicides in Oregon is more than 40% higher than the national rate over the last four years.

Auditors researching protective orders say ERPOs are not being used nearly as much as others, with the orders taking up only 1% of all requested in the state.>>


<<Oregon’s extreme risk protection order law, also known as the “red flag” gun law, is one of the least used protective orders in the state, according to a report released Wednesday.

With firearm-related deaths on the rise, officials said they believe the small number of petitions in the state to confiscate a person’s firearms over safety concerns may be a result of a lack of awareness.

Between 2018 and 2021, Oregonians submitted over 64,000 requests for protective orders, including against stalkers, perpetrators of domestic violence, people who abuse elderly relatives and more.

Less than 1% of those were “red flag” requests. Requests for family abuse prevention orders — which protect people and their children from imminent danger of domestic abuse — were the most common, accounting for over half of all protective orders.

The figures come from an advisory report from the Oregon Secretary of State’s audit division and suggest that the state’s extreme risk protection order law, which took effect in 2018, is seldom used five years later.>>

<<The law gives judges discretion to temporarily take guns from people not convicted of a crime who are showing signs that they might shoot themselves or others. It aims to offer an alternative to traditional protective orders, Love said, and was tailored to protect people from others as well as themselves.

An analysis done by The Oregonian/OregonLive in 2018 found that the law was used in a variety of cases and in some instances likely prevented deaths from gun violence, including several suicides.

The firearm death rate in Oregon from 2018 to 2021 matched the average across the U.S., with roughly 13 firearm deaths per 100,000 residents, the report said. But differences emerge when researchers zoom in on those numbers. Oregon’s rate of homicides by firearm is below the national average, but its rate of suicide by firearm is 42% higher, according to the report.>>

<<From January 2018 to the end of June 2022, law enforcement requested roughly two-thirds of the red flag orders, the report said. More than 70% of the petitions involved people with a history of self harm or who were at risk of suicide. Family or household members can request this kind of protective order, but do so less often, as they may want to avoid conflict with the person. It could also be due to the lack of awareness and the fact that other protections also have firearm restrictions built in, officials said.

A majority of the people who face an extreme risk petition are white men between the ages of 18 and 45, according to one study of 105 cases, the report said. However, data collection is not required under the law. The lack of available data makes it difficult to determine how effective the red flag law has been, Bennett said.

The report also highlighted other discrepancies in Oregon’s law, including a vague stance on how firearms should be collected.>>


<<An existing Oregon gun safety law could do more to reduce suicide and other firearms-related deaths, but the general public — and even law enforcement — don’t know enough about it, according to an audit released Wednesday by the secretary of state.>>

<<Between January 2018 and June 2022, people tried to use the law to have firearms seized more than 560 times. Judges agreed in 78% of those cases, according to the audit. The vast majority of the petitions came from law enforcement, rather than family or household members. Extreme Risk Protection Orders are also known as “red flag” laws.>>

<<The statute allows law enforcement, family or household members to go to court to temporarily remove firearms from someone exhibiting dangerous behavior or making threats. They have to fill out paperwork and attend a court hearing before a judge that same day or the next business day. If the judge signs off, the petition is served to the person, typically by law enforcement. The person ordered to surrender their firearms has 24 hours to comply. The subjects of an Extreme Risk Protection Order can request a hearing within 30 days of the order. If they don’t, it goes into effect for one year. The order is also shared with state and national law enforcement databases.

“Oregon’s ERPO law specifically bars the court from including in its findings ‘any mental health diagnosis or any connection between the risks presented by the respondent and mental illness,’” auditors noted.

“Based on our discussions with key stakeholders, this means risks should be based on the individual’s behaviors, not their mental health status or diagnosis.”>>

<<Most of the people who were the subject of an Extreme Risk Protection Order were male, white and between 18 and 45 years old.

The audit found more public awareness of the law could also help reduce the number of deaths by suicide in Oregon.

Between 2018 and 2021, overall firearm deaths in Oregon largely mirrored national trends. But Oregon’s homicide by firearm rate was 55% lower than the national rate. The state’s suicide by firearm rate was 42% higher than the national average over that period, according to the audit.

“In Oregon, older white men are at the highest risk of firearm suicide and young African Americans have the highest risk of death by firearm homicide,” the audit states. “According to data from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, veterans in Oregon died by suicide at nearly twice the rate of the general population, with more than two-thirds using a firearm.”

After an order is served, a person has 24 hours to turn over their firearms, which the audit noted is a “potentially high-risk period particularly for respondents at risk of suicide.”

The audit cited research done during the law’s first two years, which examined 93 orders. They found more than half of the cases were connected to threats made within a week of a petition being filed to remove firearms from an individual. That suggests the Extreme Risk Protection Orders are used during times where there’s an immediate crisis.

Researchers “found more than 70% of petitions involved respondents with a history of suicidality or reported risk of interpersonal violence, with more than half reported as having a history or risk of both,” the audit states.

Serving an order can be risky for law enforcement, the audit notes, “considering the order is served without warning to an individual who has been identified as being at a high risk of violence to themselves or others.”

There’s also no mechanism in the law to make sure a person has surrendered their firearms if they’re ordered to by a judge.>>



<<Since 2021, Oregon Department of Transportation has been removing graffiti along the four major interstate highways, I-5, I-84, I-405 and I-205. But funds came to a stop earlier this year and the remaining money exhausted.

The Oregon Legislature authorized a one-time allocation of $1 million in the 2021-2023 biennium for ODOT to address the graffiti problem in partnership with the city.>>

<<During the two years, ODOT and the city of Portland hired independent contractors to help remove graffiti and say they had someone working every day.>>



<<At Oliver P. Lent Elementary School, students played outside during recess Wednesday morning while on the other side of the school fence, Portland homeless camp removal crews toss mattresses and wooden pallets into a large moving truck, breaking down a camp that was too close to the schoolyard.>.

<<This time last year, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler prohibited homeless camping on streets that K-12 students use to walk to school. All month, city crews have been removing camps that violate this rule. But many remain.

It’s a growing problem that’s now caught the attention of Multnomah County Commissioner and Portland Public Schools board member Julia Brim-Edwards.

“It’s important that our kids feel safe on their way to school,” Brim-Edwards said.

She took to social media this week, pointing out multiple Portland schools still surrounded by camps, like the one next to Kellogg Middle School on the corner of Southeast 71st Avenue and Powell Boulevard. >>


<< Concerned owners of a Portland childcare center said a growing homeless camp near their business is not being addressed in a timely manner.

The owners of Higher Elevations Learning Place, a childcare center in northeast Portland, say they’ve had to take matters into their own hands. They had to put a $8,000 fence put around their vans for protection, but said there’s only so much they’re able to do on their own.>>

<<“We have a fence line on our playground that I walk every day. Often find pipes, needles, and who knows what?” Kurt Hudson, owner of Higher Elevations Learning Place, a childcare center, said.

They say the no parking signs aren’t enforced consistently, and they want the city to take meaningful action to help all people in this community.

“These are human beings out in these camps, but they’re just getting shoveled to the next location,” Kurt said. “And then we’ll get a new group that comes in.”>>



<<As Reed College resumes classes this week, student house advisers are furious about changes to their job descriptions.

Reed HAs (a role typically known on other campuses as resident adviser, or RA) now must walk rounds through campus housing five times a week and serve as mandatory reporters of violations to the college’s drug and alcohol policies.

While walking around and narcing on fellow students are standard RA duties at most colleges, they’re new at Reed. And they conflict with the experimental counterculture Reedies are known for.

“Putting the HA in the role of a snitch isolates them from community,” says the mother of a senior HA, who asked that her name be withheld.

“Because let’s face it—Reed does a lot of drugs.”

Another part of the problem: Some of the rounds are at midnight and cut close to the homeless encampment at Southeast Steele Street and 28th Avenue. (The city conveniently finished clearing the Steele camp Aug.

21, the date residence halls opened for new students.)

Karnell McConnell-Black, Reed’s vice president for student life, wrote in a statement to WW that the new duties are “part of fostering a community of care on campus” and that rounds were “clearly stated in the job description students accessed before applying for an HA position.”

These rounds are not just a quick jaunt down a dorm hallway: One HA with a particularly large territory to cover clocked hers at an hour and seven minutes (routes have since been shortened). The HAs already work in pairs and security officers are available to accompany them, McConnell-Black said.>.

When the HAs expressed their concerns to the administration at a training session earlier this month, they were told their duties were a “living contract” subject to change at any time, the Reed mother says.

“A lot of us have no choice but to sign these contracts,” says one HA, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by the administration. “I can’t afford school if I don’t have this job.”

Reed College’s tuition and fees are about $85,000 a year.>>

<<The anonymous HA fears the new reporting duties foreshadow a larger shift in campus culture.

“It’s gone from being Reed—which is a college of academic rigor where people can freely express themselves without judgment—to something much more corporate,” they say. “It’s robbing people of that Reediness that brings people here.”>>


[KW NOTE: When I was at Reed in the 90s, not even the security guards enforced the drug policy.]