Blumenauer Unveils New Legislation to Prevent Forced Deputization of Local Law Enforcement by Federal Government

October 8, 2020
Press Release
Current stand-off between local Portland officials and Trump admin demonstrates clear need for new legislation to prevent federal overreach.

PORTLAND, OR  – As the legal status of more than 50 Portland police officers remains in flux, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) today announced new legislation to address the ongoing deputization of local law enforcement officials and the Trump administration’s refusal to give control back to city officials. 

“The federal deputization of dozens of Portland police officers never should have been allowed to happen, especially with this lawless administration. What’s even more disturbing, however, is the fact that this deputization could last months against the wishes of local authorities,” Blumenauer said. “My legislation will ensure that police can’t patrol our city as federal agents when local leaders have made clear that such overreach is unacceptable.”

The legislation that Blumenauer will file in the coming days would rein in the deputation authority of the U.S. Marshals Service and ensure that local officials maintain control over police officers that are sworn to serve their own communities. 

Specifically, the Keep Law Enforcement Local Act will limit the authority of the U.S. Marshals Service to deputize local law enforcement officers unless consent is received from local government and specifies that they may withdraw consent at any time, at which point the deputation status would be terminated. 

The current statute, 28 USC 566(c), states that “the United States Marshals Service shall execute all lawful writs, process, and orders issued under the authority of the United States, and shall command all necessary assistance to execute its duties.” In the past, this broad authority was restrained by regulations and institutional norms of the federal government and has never been interpreted to supersede the 10th Amendment.

Recent events in Portland have made clear that with the wrong administration, this system can be manipulated, and that this authority cannot exist without limits.

Blumenauer’s announcement today of new federal legislation comes less than two weeks after Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton requested the federal deputation of 22 Multnomah County Sheriff deputies and 56 Portland police officers in advance of the recent Proud Boys rally. After it was revealed that this deputation status was granted through the end of the year, Portland officials asked for the federal designation of local officers to be removed, a request that U.S. Attorney Billy Williams denied.  

“There may be times when state and local officials want to federally deputize law enforcement under their control. At the same time, the Constitution allows them to end that whenever they choose,” Blumenauer said. “We will make that clear to Trump, Barr, and their political appointees in Oregon.”

A one-pager on the legislation is available here.