May 25, 2021
Brent Weisberg, Communications Director
(PORTLAND, Ore.) – Today, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt released the following statement.
One year ago, we witnessed an unconscionable act of police violence. The murder of George Floyd compelled a worldwide reckoning over race and social injustice. It conclusively demonstrated something that our diverse communities have long understood but our white communities often manage to ignore: That Black people, in particular Black men, are disproportionately the victims of police brutality, and that brutality really is the right word for the incredibly excessive use of physical force that is sometimes applied by law enforcement against Black bodies.
I marched with community members and listened to our Black leaders. I wanted to hear from them directly on how we could enact real change in our system so that a person of color isn’t treated differently when interacting with police—so that our criminal justice system would focus on actual justice. I will continue to listen, to use my power and authority to push change through the system and to call out the systems and practices that treat others unfairly. I do this because it’s right. I do this because Black Lives Matter.
Last year was a revelation about the change we need and where we need to be as a community. On paper, 2020 was still only 366 days. But for most of us, it felt like it lasted a whole lot longer. And while 2020 is finally behind us, many of the problems it presented are not. The pandemic resulted in new challenges that we didn’t expect. These may seem like insurmountable obstacles—but they are not. Today, in the midst of our on-going efforts to bring about change, we are now fighting a surge of gun violence that is wreaking havoc on our Black communities. We are working to find services, resources, treatment opportunities and housing for people living on the streets. We are asking our police agencies to look inward, listen to the demands of the community and fundamentally reimagine their approach to policing. To do this work well means that we must rethink our vision about how we can be effective. What is not effective is the myth that we can somehow arrest or prosecute our way out of a situation that must be addressed holistically—that recognizes the vulnerabilities of humans and the opportunities that are possible when we act together.
The fight for racial equity is something I think about daily. It guides me as district attorney and in my personal life. In the past 9 months—the time that I’ve been Multnomah County’s district attorney—I have recognized the discriminatory practices woven into our criminal justice system and have taken steps to undo those harms.
At the state legislature, I have supported efforts to restore voting rights to those who are incarcerated…
…I have supported efforts that would allow judges to actually impose a sentence based on a case’s individual merits, not out-of-touch laws pasted decades ago.
…Encouraged lawmakers to give prosecutors the power to petition a sentencing court to review and correct sentences that no longer serve the interests of justice.
…And I’ve supported reforms that would greatly shorten the amount of time that must pass before a criminal conviction can be expunged from a person’s criminal record, restoring their ability to obtain housing and employment.
…And, I have encouraged and supported a historic package of policing bills that will have a tremendous step at reimagining policing in Oregon.
None of these are enough. While I would invite us to reflect on the positive strides we have made in the last year and to take some pride in those accomplishments, the struggle to bend our system ever further in the direction of justice will not end in one year of hard work. The hard truth is that we must continue on this journey together, without faltering. We are on path to break down the barriers that result in inequitable access to resources. We are continuing to address the disparity in our criminal justice system. And we will do this together—so if you are tired…if your voice is hoarse from calling for justice. Know this: We will lean in to hear you. We will lift you up. We will amplify your voice. We will be held accountable for making progress. We will not use distraction as an excuse for inaction.”