March 29, 2023
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt today testified in support of SB 915, which would enhance resources at the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) to assume control of the prosecution of criminal cases involving the fatal use of force by law enforcement. The bill utilizes an opt-in approach, allowing each county to decide whether or not to refer officer-involved shooting cases to DOJ.
“Deputy DAs work day in and day out with police officers, often developing strong professional relationships and getting to know each other in the way we all do when we work with people routinely,” said DA Mike Schmidt. “Yet the expectation is that when these members of law enforcement are the subject of a criminal investigation, we will take on the prosecution as though these relationships do not exist.
“The fatal use of force by a law enforcement officer is an extremely sensitive event that requires the highest levels of process and transparency to investigate and prosecute. Since my election, I have referred these cases for external review, frequently to DOJ, which is allowed via the DA Assist function – a mechanism within their criminal justice division, whereby DOJ can assist Oregon’s district attorneys upon their request.
“But it comes at a cost. The DOJ criminal justice division is asked to serve the entirety of the state with a small team. Senate Bill 915 will create a dedicated resource within DOJ to handle cases involving the lethal use of force by law enforcement. This modest investment will allow DOJ to invest in specialized expertise to manage these crucially important and sensitive cases without risking the displacement of other priorities.
“I believe that this is responsive to what communities demand from their law enforcement representatives and from DA offices in terms of transparency, accountability, and professionalism.”
More information is available on the Oregon Legislature’s website.