Clackamas County, OR – The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office is considering no longer responding to assist Portland police.
The City of Portland has refused to indemnify Clackamas County deputies who respond to requests for assistance from Portland police, according to the sheriff.
As a result, the deputies can be personally sued if they back up Portland officers and any lawsuits arise later.
Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts explained the situation in an email to his deputies in late February, KPTV reported.
Out of concern over the legal and financial risks to his deputies, Sheriff Roberts said that he asked Portland city leaders to agree to cover potential legal expenses in cases where the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) requests their assistance.
That request was denied, forcing the sheriff to consider restricting its cooperation with the PPB.
“I will not place our staff at unnecessary personal risk when acting under law and authority as a police officer,” he wrote in the email.
If the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) implements such restrictions, deputies will no longer have permission to respond to PPB’s requests for assistance in most investigative cases.
They would also not have authorization to assist the PPB with crowd control or SWAT operations.
Deputies would still be allowed to respond to active shooter situations in Portland, and would also be authorized to aid city officers whose lives are at risk, the sheriff said.
But Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner said he believes the lack of indemnification would still negatively impact deputies’ responses in those situations.
“The deputies and the officers that show up, one thing that will always be on their mind is, ‘if there’s something catastrophic happening, will I be indemnified?’” Turner told KPTV.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) restricted its cooperation with Portland police in February, and the Vancouver Police Department is considering doing the same, KPTV reported.
One of the reasons the WCSO cited for pulling out of the agreement was the “anti-police attitude” in the city of Portland, KPTV reported.
Turner said that he understands why neighboring departments want to restructure their mutual aid agreements with the city.
“They’re looking out for their deputies,” Turner said. “This should’ve never happened.”
Without the assistance of surrounding departments, some cases could be negatively affected.
“The cases we do with drug cases, gang cases,” he explained, “That slows those cases down.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s communications director, Eileen Park, said that the Portland city Attorney’s Office and PPB are “currently evaluating [the] mutual aid agreements with local law enforcement agencies.”
Park said that the city may not want to take on the potential liability of neighboring law enforcement officers in many situations.
“If the City of Portland agrees to indemnify another public safety agency under a mutual aid agreement, then Portland would be accepting legal liability for the actions of the other agency’s officers that the Portland Police Bureau did not train or supervise,” she told KPTV.
The PPB is working to develop a mutual aid agreement that reduces the risk to the city, but also protects the public, Park added.