Oregon Lawfare Beat April 14: And the Walls Came Down

Nearing a year into our “racial reckoning” there is no prospect of political opposition to the progressive juggernaut in Portland, and police abolitionists continue advancing their primary goals of limiting police authority, tactics and contact with the public, especially blacks, as well as ending qualified immunity and union rights. The new trope of “reimagining” law and order (under any other name; “law and order” now falling out of usage in correlation with law and order falling out of practice) sounds like the sort of airy hyperbole to come out of an ad campaign, but is unfortunately as earnest and as stupid as it sounds.

To that end in Portland they’re bringing the police department and eventually its budget under the control of a newly created Community Safety Transition Director, and strengthening the fervently progressive District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who’s above all dedicated to alleviating the problem of “mass incarceration”, which is the Holy Grail the left sees within its grasp, the problem of too many blacks behind bars. With the media manufactured momentum of last summer still strong and the Derek Chauvin trial intensifying the general angst, police reformers and abolitionists continue making progress toward reducing the number of black men behind bars by any means, with disregard for the impact on public safety–“reimagined” public safety is lessened public safety, and the slogan seems almost designed to prepare us for that.

There also appears to be no opposition at the state level to this project. The Oregon Legislative Assembly, declaring an emergency, just passed out of committee a slate of police reforms that come like a strafing run on law and order: a law limiting riot control measures almost entirely to the judicious use of pepper spray and taking away the authority to declare an unlawful assembly (which should make this summer interesting); a law making it illegal for cops to not snitch on their partners; another limiting arbitration and bringing police discipline statewide under a newly created bureaucracy; one mandating a detailed statewide use-of-force publicly available database to include “threats to use force” and the race, gender, age, in that order, of presumed offenders, as well as names of all present; a law mandating police applicants be investigated for racism and pass through psychiatric evaluations and a “racial sympathy test” to that end; another, bigger database mandate placing in the public record all “complaints, allegations, charges, disciplinary proceedings” against public safety employees, and lesser humiliations.

Mike Schmidt enthused, citing George Floyd. He, unfortunately, still has to prosecute the occasional crime, and there are many contending for attention. He drew the automatic ire of the police abolitionist left when charging a persistent out-of-state antifa rioter with attempted murder on April 5 and he’s signed on to a plan bringing the ATF and FBI in to collaborate with federally deputized local police to investigate and prosecute gun crimes, some at the federal level. Federal deputation of local police was a controversial tactic used last summer when the city hamstrung police with rules on use-of -force (which will become state law if the bill above passes) that don’t apply to federal facilities or agents, and the District Attorney was quick to point out

Because the purpose of this collaboration is to interdict gun-related harm in our community, local law enforcement deputized under this new agreement will play no role in enforcing immigration law nor perform any crowd management duties at First Amendment demonstrations or events.

If it’s to work at all the effort works against the greater goal of keeping black men out of jail at all costs. But Schmidt at the very least still feels compelled to respect the potential wrath of the public (as opposed to “the community”, which is a disingenuous name for the activist/grifter community), maybe even a sense of decency, and long sentences resulting from federal charges are a sure-fire way to stem the bleeding. If he, Mike Schmidt, doesn’t have to prosecute them himself so much the better.

As the weather warms and antifa stirs–recently setting fires at local and federal targets–and with the prospect of increased arrests and charges against black criminal suspects, with the expected new state laws limiting riot control and police authority and the ever-present steady drumbeat of dead black suspects I fear we’re in for one long hot summer in Portland.

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