Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese Portland riots

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese issued a special order last week allowing deputies to book suspects accused of misdemeanor reckless burning and criminal mischief into the county jail as Portland continues to grapple with violent protests that have seen businesses and government buildings vandalized.

The changes took effect on April 23, according to a memo signed by Reese.

"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," sheriff's office spokesman Chris Liedle told Fox News.

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© John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Police fire tear gas at demonstrators during a protest against ICE in Portland, Oregon on January 23, 2021.
Previously, deputies issued a citation for misdemeanor crimes with a court appearance order. The order comes after nearly a year of protests that have devolved into violence that resulted in buildings being vandalized, fires being set and violent clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement.

The sheriff's office has historically had an opening booking policy, meaning that anyone with a criminal charge could be booked into its jail. That changed with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with the agency deciding to restrict jail booking to higher-level crimes in an effort to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in its correctional institutions.

Local officials have spoken out about the level of chaos happening on Portland streets each night as some groups of demonstrators have engaged in destructive behavior.
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© KPTV
A person was seen on a livestream heaving a large pile of burning material onto a desk inside the Multnomah Building.
"The violence and property destruction we've seen in Portland for nearly 11 months is unacceptable," Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said last week. "As district attorney, I will always defend a person's right to free speech but I will not defend, nor support anyone who knowingly or recklessly or intentionally destroys property or engages in violence."

Since the changes went into effect, three people have been arrested and booked into jail on second-degree criminal mischief charges, the Oregonian reported. Liedle said the special order is only temporary.

"It's expected that as we round the corner with COVID-19 in the future, open booking will be restored," Liedle said.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he hopes the changes will stop those who have taken to the streets to set fires, break windows and spray-paint graffiti.

"Once they cross that line and engage in criminal destruction, they are no longer protesters they are criminals," Wheeler said during a Friday afternoon press conference.