The Structure of Local Law Enforcement Agencies

A number of different law enforcement agencies operate in Multnomah County. They belong to different organizations from several layers of government. While these agencies may have varying functions they are all authorized to investigate violations of the law and make arrests in criminal cases when appropriate.

The federal government employs several agencies in our community and in the state. They include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), all of which concentrate on federal law violations. These agencies will often work jointly with local law enforcement officers, although state law prohibits local police officers from engaging in police activity solely designed to enforce immigration law. All arrests for violations of federal law are handled in federal court and prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office.

State law violations can be investigated by a number of agencies, including state police, county sheriffs and municipal police departments, although other specialized agencies have authorized police departments associated with their operations. All arrests made for state law violations are handled in the state court system and almost all are prosecuted by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.

In Multnomah County, the majority of law enforcement activity is conducted by municipal police departments, a reflection of the fact that the county consists largely of incorporated cities. The Portland Police Bureau, a municipal police department is the largest police agency in the county and consequently conducts the vast majority of law enforcement activity in the county. The city of Gresham has a municipal police department with sworn police officers and significant law enforcement responsibilities.

The Multnomah County Sheriff (MCSO) is a county law enforcement agency with a substantial policing function and operates investigations throughout the county and patrols unincorporated areas of the county. MCSO also provides contract police services for the cities of Fairview, Wood Village and Troutdale.

The Oregon State Police is a state department under the control of the Governor of Oregon and operates throughout the state to enforce state laws.

Finally, additional agencies such as the Oregon Health Sciences University and the Port of Portland have police departments employing state certified officers to conduct law enforcement operations relating to their business.

Although these agencies may have different missions and operations they all attempt to coordinate law enforcement operations as closely as the law permits. There are some instances where laws may prevent information-sharing and joint operations, such as national security and immigration, but in general all enforcement agencies work very closely with others in their operations. This cooperation takes many forms, but joint communication systems, joint record systems, multi-agency training programs and multi-jurisdictional task forces and operations are some of the most visible types of multi-agency cooperation.  The clearest example of multi-agency cooperation to formulate public safety policy is the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC), which consists of members of many local agencies which meet to determine joint public safety policy.