Portland Police Chief sends internal memo: 'Stop telling the public DA won't prosecute crimes'

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PORTLAND, OR – As crime continues to plague the city of Portland, residents are not holding back their frustrations with Multnomah County officials, especially district attorney Mike Schmidt, who has developed a reputation for being soft on crime.

Since taking office in August 2020, Schmidt’s office has been accused of not prosecuting cases that are very clearly against the law. In 2022, KGW senior investigative reporter Kyle Iboshi discovered that Schmidt’s office was prosecuting less than half of the misdemeanor theft cases being brought to them by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB).

According to that report, Schmidt’s office was only prosecuting 46% of misdemeanor theft cases, compared to 93% in neighboring Washington County and 84% in Clackamas County.

Schmidt, who won the election back in 2020 with 70% of the votes, immediately aggravated residents when he refused to prosecute 520 people who were charged with “interfering with a police officer” and other “non-violent crimes” during the many riots that destroyed downtown Portland.

His office’s lack of prosecuting left many officers discouraged, which in turn caused city residents to express their disappointment in their interactions with PPB officers.

In response to the many reports received, PPB Chief Chuck Lovell sent a bureau-wide memo urging all officers and non-uniformed employees working for the Bureau to stop telling residents that the criminals will not be prosecuted by Schmidt.

In the memo, which was sent out back on May 4th, but obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive in the beginning of August, Lovell wrote:

“What is completely unacceptable is telling a community member that you will not take police action because the district attorney refuses to prosecute cases."

He added, “This undermines our relationships with criminal justice partners and sends the message to the community that the system is unresponsive to their needs."

Lovell’s memo comes in the wake of Schmidt gearing up for a re-election, in what is alleged to be a hotly contested race against Nathan Vasquez, a veteran Multnomah County prosecutor.

In a statement, Vasquez confirmed that he is thinking about running against his boss, saying, “Over the past few months, many people including crime victims, community members, business owners, judges and prosecutors have asked me to run for Multnomah County District Attorney. The recurring theme that I have heard is our need for improved community safety and the need to support victims.

"This is an important decision that deserves thoughtful and serious conversations with my family, friends and community members. I look forward to this potential opportunity to continue to serve victims and improve safety in this community."

Back in March 2023, KGW reported on a series of ads that were running, specifically targeting Schmidt, other county commissioners and the county sheriff. The ads were allegedly being used to pressure these officials into protecting Portland residents by prosecuting those who commit crimes.

According to KGW, the ads were privately funded by a group called “People for Portland." One of the ads that the group ran said, “Under the policies of DA Mike Schmidt, we have record shootings and murders - and while jail beds sit empty, too many crimes like vandalism and burglary go unprosecuted. Portland is a Schmidt-show. Take action to save it."

When asked to elaborate, Dan Lavey, one of the organizers of the group, had no problem echoing the ad, saying, “Well, Portland is a Schmidt-show. And the fact that an elected official like the elected DA is a part of the problem, rather than a part of the solution is frankly unacceptable. And we need change in policies. Now we need more prosecutions. We need empty jail beds that are open and we need a DA who does more than hold a press conference, and without offering any new solutions to make Portland safe again."

Back in March 2023, Lovell was interviewed by KGW. When asked about a survey showing that the majority of people living in Portland do not feel safe downtown, his response was, “I want to tell them that we’re working hard at the police bureau to hire more folks, to get more investigators, more officers on the street and try to address these issues that Portlanders really need addressed.

“From my perspective, we should be out there doing the work that the people really tell us that they need and want to see. There are many units that we had in the city at one time that, for staffing reasons and other reasons, we don’t have today. And we’re looking at ways to kind of rebuild those and give people more service."
 
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