A special order was issued last week by Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese that allows deputies to immediately book those suspected of misdemeanor reckless burning and criminal mischief into the county jail. The order went into effect on April 23 as Portland continues to suffer violent protests that have wrecked businesses and government buildings.
In the past, deputies would only issue a citation for misdemeanor crimes and the individual would later have to appear in court.
According to the sheriff's office spokesman Chris Liedle, "The addition of the two specified crimes was done in recognition of the recent proliferation of attempts to set fire to objects and structures during demonstrations, and has been done in the best interest of public safety."
This new order comes after a long year of protests and violence in the area that have resulted in buildings being destroyed, fires being set, and confrontations between demonstrators and law enforcement.
Previously, the sheriff's office had an open booking policy which means that any person with a criminal charge could be booked. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that changed to limit jail bookings to only higher-level crimes in order to reduce to possible transmission of the virus within correctional institutions.
Since the new order has gone into effect, at least three people have been arrested and booked into the chail on charges of second-degree criminal mischief.
But Liedle says this is a special order and is only temporary.
"It's expected that as we round the corner with COVID-19 in the future," he said, "open booking will be restored."
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler expects that these changes will strike fear into those who are still out on the streets setting fires, breaking windows, and spray painting graffiti.
Wheeler said during a press conference, "Once they cross that line and engage in criminal destruction, they are no longer protesters they are criminals."