Police Practices

"If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy."
-- Louis Brandeis,
U.S. Supreme Court Justice,
Olmstead v. United States (1928)

Police have the vital and difficult job of protecting public safety. Performing this job effectively does not require sacrificing civil liberties or civil rights. All Oregon police agencies, from the state patrol to city police forces, need to respect the rights of individuals while enforcing the law. And when misconduct occurs, there must be policies and mechanisms for holding police accountable for their actions.

ACLU is also working to eliminate racial and ethnic profiling in police practices that have a disproportionate impact on individuals merely because of their race, color, national origin or religion.

For more information on your rights when stopped by the police, please feel free to download our Your Rights in Oregon card (under Related Documents).

Litigation

Gresham Cop Snatches Phone From Observer During Live Broadcast

Police Violated Free Speech and Free Press Rights During Unlawful Search and Detention of Livestreamer

February 11, 2015 - Carrie Medina firmly believes that police should always act as they would if they knew there was a camera on them. She made it a point to film police encounters she witnessed.

In February 2013, while riding the bus home from work, she heard someone exclaim, “Ooh, that must’ve hurt!” and looked outside to see two police officers arresting a young man. She got off the bus to observe the police activity and started a livestream video with her phone. Watch the video.

Medina was no stranger to livestreaming. She got her start during the Occupy Portland protests and had soon gathered a group of dedicated viewers. With donations from her supporters to help cover expenses, she had also traveled to protests in D.C. and Chicago to livestream video.

“Livestreamers” have played an important role in recent protests both by attracting large audiences in real time and also by capturing moments that can go “viral” afterwards. For example, over 750,000 viewers tuned in live to see the violent eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protestors. And recently in Ferguson, Missouri, livestreaming journalists shared video of the militarized police response toward protestors that shocked the nation.

By the time Carrie Medina was off the bus and in place to video, the young man being arrested was already in handcuffs. She stood several yards away broadcasting and narrating the events. She started to feel that the police were paying her a lot of attention and she backed even further away. That’s when Officer Letsis walked up to her and asked to see her video.

READ MORE >>

Supreme Court Decides Bush Protest Case

prostesters in Jacksonville, OR May 27, 2014 - In a disappointing decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that we cannot sue Secret Service agents for their decision to have peaceful protesters moved blocks away from, and out of earshot of, President George W. Bush during his campaign visit to Jacksonville, Oregon in October, 2004.  Our lawsuit alleged that Secret Service Agents moved our clients further away from the President only because of their vocal criticism of the President’s policies and that action violated the protesters’ constitutional free speech rights. 

The unanimous opinion by Justice Ginsburg stressed that while the Constitution does not allow the Secret Service to treat protesters more harshly because of their viewpoint, the two agents were entitled to qualified immunity and dismissed our claims against them. Much of the Court’s opinion focused on the physical location of the protesters in relation to the President and found a “plausible” security justification for the Secret Service decision to move the protesters. 

"We are disappointed by today’s ruling,” said Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “No one disputes that the Secret Service has an overriding interest in protecting the President, but that does not include the right to shield the President from criticism, a critical distinction that the Court unanimously reaffirmed. In our view, the jury should have been allowed to decide whether this case was actually about security or censorship."

READ MORE >>

Legislation

PRIVACY: Regulate Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) surveillance technology (SB 639)

Law enforcement agencies deploy license plate reader surveillance technology in Oregon without adequate or consistent privacy restrictions. Many agencies retain the location information and photograph of every vehicle that crosses the camera’s path, not simply those that are associated with a criminal nexus.

READ MORE >>

PRIVACY: Prohibit Unwarranted Access to Electronic Communications and Location Information (SB 640)

Electronic communication – through email, cell phones and social media – has increasingly eclipsed postal mail and other hard-copy methods as our primary means of communication. Unfortunately, some government agencies interpret our outdated privacy laws to allow them to intercept and access a treasure trove of information about who you are, where you go, and what you do – the information being collected by search engines, social networking sites, and other websites every day.

READ MORE >>

Other

ACLU Launches Police Watch App in Oregon

“Mobile Justice” app allows Oregonians to record video of police encounters, includes guide to rights
November 6,2014 – The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon today announced the release of a smartphone application that will allow users to take video of police encounters and quickly upload the video to the ACLU. It can also send an alert when a police stop is being recorded by another user nearby and provides helpful legal information about interacting with police.

“Police officers have a unique role and position within our society and they are given extraordinary powers,” said David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Oregonians have the right to record video of police in public places as a check to those powers.”

Fidanque said that the app, known as “Mobile Justice,” is also being launched simultaneously by ACLU affiliates in Missouri, Mississippi, and Nebraska.  He said it is intended for use by people witnessing a police encounter, not by individuals who are the subject of a police stop. 

READ MORE >>