Multnomah County voters elected District Attorney Mike Schmidt in 2020. Schmidt has campaigned to shrink the criminal justice system, but his latest move is to hire more prosecutors to join his team. As first reported by the Portland Mercury, Schmidt wants to spend $2.7 million on a program to hire eight new prosecutors who would be assigned to four geographic areas.
Schmidt says the Multnomah County Attorney Access Program (MAAP) would partner with community centers and neighborhood nonprofits in an effort to build relationships and better understand the needs of the community.
“I go to a lot of community meetings and one of the things I hear over and over again is that leaders and government and everybody should actually be working with the community all the time,” Schmidt said. to OPB’s “Think Out Loud”. “Right now we are doing our best, but basically we are sitting behind the walls of the courthouse and waiting for the police reports to come to us. It breaks that. It gets us out and in fact with the people we serve.
Schmidt cited Unite Oregon, the Coalition of Communities of Color and Basic Rights Oregon as examples of progressive organizations that agree with his new proposal. He said MAAP also has support from law enforcement and business groups. One organization that remains skeptical is the ACLU of Oregon.
In a statement to the OPB, the group said, “The ACLU of Oregon continues to be concerned that DA Schmidt’s MAAP program, while well-intentioned, will have adverse effects on the same communities that prosecutors have harmed. for generations. At a time when courts and public defenders are caving under the weight of prosecutors’ workloads, it is disheartening to see efforts to increase the state’s prosecutorial capacity. »
According to Schmidt, adding more prosecutors to his team won’t necessarily lead to more prosecutions.
“Although we would have more prosecutors, what happens when you have more assistant district attorneys to do this job is that they can spend more time on cases and they can do a better job in terms of time to find creative resolutions, for example, exploring restorative justice options in our community,” he said.
The Portland Mercury likened MAAP to a neighborhood-focused initiative created in 1990 by former Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk.
When asked how he would avoid disproportionately criminalizing people of color and low-income people for nonviolent offenses, Schmidt was quick to point out that he had made victim demographics public. of criminal acts and the accused in order to hold himself and his office accountable.