March 18, 2020

Multnomah County Public Safety Leaders Responding to COVID-19

News Release
March 18, 2020
Please contact respective departments for specific questions.

Multnomah County Public Safety Partners responding to COVID-19

PORTLAND, ORE. — During this unprecedented time, criminal justice partners across Multnomah County are working together to prioritize the health and safety of our public safety professionals, individuals in custody, crime victims and members of the public. 

In an effort to maintain essential public safety and criminal justice functions, agency partners in Multnomah County are implementing temporary policy changes across the system. These actions are aimed at minimizing disease transmission, protecting all staff and justice-involved individuals and preserving the long-term viability of law enforcement and jail operations. To reduce the strain on our criminal justice system, agencies are taking several steps. Among them:  

  • Law enforcement officers — operating within the county — have been given additional discretion to reduce the strain on the criminal justice system. When appropriate, officers can elect to issue a citation requiring a person to appear in court at a later date. This does not apply to those arrested on more serious charges, such as domestic violence, sex crimes, and violent person crimes. 

  • The Sheriff’s Office opened an additional dorm at Multnomah County Inverness Jail Friday, March 13, to allow for better implementation of physical distancing guidelines.

  • With input from Dr. Michael Seale of Multnomah County Corrections Health and former Tri-County Health Officer Dr. Paul Lewis, enhanced screening measures have been enacted when individuals arrive at jail. This process includes screening for specific symptoms related to COVID-19, travel history and contact history, as well as testing per Oregon Health Authority guidelines and enforcing physical distancing.

  • Sheriff's Office staff is conducting enhanced facility cleaning — a standard practice during cold and flu season.

  • Additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in jails may be needed, such as reducing the jail population through early release or release to pretrial supervision.

  • The District Attorney’s Office has shifted most of its in-person operations to electronic or telephonic communications. Members of our community, including crime victims, requesting services from the DA’s Office, should call 503-988-3162.

  • The staff of the District Attorney’s Victim’s Assistance Program continues to inform crime victims of their rights and continues to help crime victims across the criminal justice spectrum.

  • The District Attorney's Office continues to work with the court, defense bar, law enforcement and other criminal justice partners to balance the needs of public health and public safety, to reduce the detention rate and overall jail population to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and to protect the wellbeing of all individuals in custody.

  • To that end, the District Attorney’s Office will continue to, when reasonable, safe and appropriate, responsibly support motions for release. The DA’s Office will also, when appropriate and in the interest of justice and public safety, support  some incarceration sentences being delayed until a later date.  

  • Many court trials and hearings have been postponed and in-person court services significantly limited.

  • Court dates for individuals who have been sentenced to Turn Self In (TSI) have been postponed and new report dates are being rescheduled.

  • Parole/Probation officers will continue to check-in and respond to public safety concerns for individuals on supervision. However, those who violate their probation — but don't commit a new crime — will not be sanctioned to jail, unless there is a public safety risk.  

This is a rapidly-evolving situation and one that requires flexibility and collaboration. We encourage members of the public to stay up to date by accessing public websites for more information, including: Multnomah County Circuit Courts, Multnomah County District Attorney, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Gresham Police, Portland Police Police Bureau and Multnomah County’s COVID-19 page.

By taking these measures we are working to preserve the health and safety of our staff and those in our custody, and the communities we serve. Through existing partnerships, Multnomah County’s public safety leaders already meet on a regular basis and will continue to do so to take swift action when necessary. 

**Please note, law enforcement agencies are responding to all calls for service. All criminal investigations will continue. If you witness a crime or need to file a police report, please contact your local law enforcement agency. When appropriate, officers may contact community members by phone. Dial 911 for emergencies.