Oregon State Police Intensify Efforts Against Fentanyl Dealers in Response to Governor's Directive

OREGON — Oregon State Police have embarked on an intensified campaign against fentanyl dealers, following a directive issued by Governor Tina Kotek on Tuesday.

Governor Kotek unveiled these directives during a second private meeting of her Portland Central City Task Force, a group established last month to devise strategies addressing various issues in Portland, including homelessness, public drug use, and the city's tarnished national reputation. Although she didn't delve into specifics in the initial public announcement, she emphasized the importance of swift action against those responsible for distributing fentanyl.

Kotek clarified that her directive did not entail increasing the presence of uniformed patrol officers on the streets, a request made by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to assign 96 Oregon State Police officers to bolster the city's police force. Instead, the governor expects Oregon State Police detectives to provide their expertise and collaborate with city and Multnomah County authorities, along with the U.S. Attorney's Office, to bring federal charges against drug dealers.

While Oregon State Police have already been involved in such efforts, Kotek anticipates a more urgent and drug-focused approach, emphasizing drug seizures and targeting dealers. In 2023, the agency has already confiscated 62 pounds of powder and 232,962 fentanyl pills, according to data from the governor's office.

Kotek stated, "We're going to see where we can reallocate resources to prioritize this issue because sending a strong message to dealers in the Portland area can also benefit the entire state."

The directives to the agency include:

1. Reallocating staff to local and regional drug enforcement teams.

2. Leading interagency saturation patrols, which involve increased police presence in specific areas at designated times.

3. Partnering with the Department of Justice to ensure law enforcement officers receive training to prevent unlawful searches and biased policing.

4. Continuing a program initiated this summer that employs data analysis to identify individuals driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The Portland Central City Task Force, led by Sen. Kate Lieber, D-Portland, plans to recommend legislative measures that would criminalize public drug use. They also aim to address recent Oregon Supreme Court rulings that have complicated drug dealer prosecutions, such as the 2021 State v. Hubbell case, where the court ruled that mere possession of substantial quantities of illegal drugs is insufficient evidence to prove intent to sell.

It's worth noting that the task force intends to present its recommendations at the December Oregon Business Plan Summit rather than directly to the Legislature. This approach allows them to circumvent public meeting laws and maintain the privacy of their deliberations, which include both the 47-member task force and five subcommittees comprised of over 120 individuals.