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

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."

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Gasque v. City of Portland

Vindication in “Know Your Rights” Case

November 7, 2012 - Nearly three years to the day after he was arrested in Old Town in downtown Portland for refusing to consent to a Portland police officer’s request to search him without probable cause, Jose Gasque received justice in a Multnomah County courtroom.  

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Legislation

Stronger Accountability Measures Needed in Portland Police Settlement Agreement

ACLU Submits Comments to Federal Court in Anticipation of February Hearing

February 3, 2014 - On Friday the ACLU submitted comments to the federal court in support of a Settlement Agreement between Portland Police Bureau, the City of Portland, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the Portland Police’s unconstitutional practice of using excessive force against people with mental illness or experiencing mental health crisis. The comments come at the request of Judge Michael Simon, who on February 18th will hold a Fairness Hearing in his courtroom to determine whether the pending Settlement Agreement is fair and adequate to address the claims made by the DOJ after a lengthy investigation.

The Settlement Agreement is by no means perfect. We share concerns with other community advocates for police reform that the Agreement does not adequately address needed changes to the system of accountability for officer misconduct. And we fear that without stronger “teeth,” even the modest changes to the Portland Police that are mandated in the Agreement will never be implemented. 

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ACLU Urges Lake Oswego to Consider Alternative Agreement With FBI

April 16, 2013 - Lake Oswego City Council is set to vote on a proposal to join the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) this evening, without discussion. The ACLU is urging the Council to postpone the vote until more details on the agreement between local law enforcement and the FBI can be reviewed.

UPDATE: April 17, 2013 - The Lake Oswego City Council voted unanimously to join the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

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The efforts to improve communication and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, including between the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies, is important. As yesterday’s events in Boston have once again illustrated, such cooperation can be essential to protect public safety. However, the FBI and other federal agencies operate under very different laws and policies than state and local police agencies are required to follow here in Oregon.

Unfortunately, the FBI’s standard agreement for participation by local agencies in their Joint Terrorism Task Forces does not make any accommodation for those different standards and requirements. Indeed, that standard agreement makes it extremely likely that local police officers, once deputized as members of the FBI JTTF, will engage in activities that violate the important protections and safeguards of Oregon law and the Oregon Constitution.

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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. 

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