PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A new FBI-led task force will work with police in Portland, Oregon, to build cases against people responsible for an increase in shootings.
Creating a multi-agency Metro Safe Streets Task Force came after much negotiation and a guarantee for set boundaries on Portland officers’ participation, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Under a memorandum of understanding reached with the city attorney’s office, Portland officers working with the task force will be deputized as federal officers but won’t do immigration or crowd control enforcement with or for federal law enforcement. The city can remove Portland officers from the task force at any time.
The task force will include 20 Portland police officers, two officers from police in nearby Gresham and two from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office to coordinate investigations with federal agents from the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as state and federal prosecutors. The FBI and the ATF each will dedicate one supervisor and four federal agents.
The collaboration will bring federal money, up to nearly $20,000 per officer to reimburse overtime costs, to local police agencies to do the work. It will also bring additional cars, equipment and federal forensic tools to do faster ballistic analysis of shell casings.
The task force work will be restricted to investigations after a shooting occurs, authorities said.
The sharp rise in gun violence in Portland has mobilized police and politicians to act. More than 284 shootings have happened so far this year in the city, with over 90 people injured and 18 killed. The city has seen 26 total homicides this year.
If the pace continues, the city could hit a record 100 homicides by year’s end.
“The city can’t be allowed to reach any kind of milestone like that,” said Kieran Ramsey, Oregon’s top FBI special agent-in-charge.
Last year, Portland recorded 55 homicides — with 41 from shootings, according to police. The last time Portland recorded as many was in 1994, when there also were 55 homicides, police said.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said he has devoted significant time talking to Portland commissioners to “make sure everybody was comfortable” with the task force, understood the parameters of the officers’ federal deputization and the “urgency” of the moment.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as police commissioner, Police Chief Chuck Lovell, Ramsey and Jonathan T. McPherson, the head of the federal firearms bureau’s Seattle field division, signed the memorandums.
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