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).


Oregon Anti-Bush Protesters Granted Class Status in ACLU Suit

prostesters in Jacksonville, OR

Jacksonville Protesters’ Case Moves Forward After a Disappointing Supreme Court Ruling

November 30, 2015 - A group of protesters in southern Oregon, who are suing local police for excessive force and unlawful arrest, have been granted class action status for some of the claims in their lawsuit. The protesters, who in 2004 were ordered to leave an area where then-president George W. Bush was having dinner in Jacksonville, Oregon, have fought for years to have their claims heard in court.

In October 2004, U.S. Secret Service agents directed state and local police in Jacksonville to move an anti-Bush picket line of more than 250 peaceful demonstrators while allowing a group of pro-Bush demonstrators to remain in the same area undisturbed. The police effort turned violent as the officers clad in riot gear used batons, "less-lethal" munitions, and chemical agents to move the multigenerational group of anti-Bush demonstrators. The ACLU of Oregon filed a federal lawsuit against the Secret Service as well as state and local police agencies, and the individual agents and officers, seeking damages and an injunction against such governmental abuse in the future.

“The police took things too far when they pushed protesters and used pepper spray and batons on the group that included families with young children,”  said Steven Wilker, a lawyer with the Portland-based Tonkon Torp law firm who represents the protestors pro bono on behalf of the ACLU of Oregon.

The protesters have yet to have their case heard in court because the Secret Service, claiming qualified immunity, moved to have the case against them dismissed.


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.



VICTORY! The Right to Film the Police Bill Passes the Oregon Legislature

The Oregon legislature has made it clear the public has the right to openly record police by passing HB 2704. It is now headed to the Governor’s desk.

June 16, 2015 - Victory - Right to Film the Police bill passesBystander video of police encounters can be very powerful, as recent events have shown. We can all agree it should not be a crime to pull out a phone, hold it up, and record an officer who is engaged in misconduct. However, under the current Oregon law, it is a crime to record a conversation without "specifically informing" the parties to the conversation. The problem is obvious — it may not always be safe or reasonable to provide a warning; for example, when the officer is engaged in misconduct or if the officer is dealing with a dangerous situation. When the Governor signs HB 2704 into law, the right to openly record police will be protected in Oregon.

Over 1,700 ACLU supporters took action on this issue by contacting their legislators in Salem. Together, our voices were heard! Thank you to everyone who took a stand for the right to film police in Oregon.


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.



Letter to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum Regarding Surveillance of #BlackLivesMatter

November 10, 2015

Attorney General Rosenblum:

We, the undersigned, have been notified that the Oregon Department of Justice has conducted digital surveillance on Oregonians because of their use of the Black Lives Matter hashtag on social media.


ACLU Releases Online Guide for Reporting Police Misconduct

“How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon” compiles statewide information

August 7, 2015 - Just ahead of the anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown, the ACLU of Oregon announced the publication of “How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon,"  an online resource for reporting police misconduct. The guide includes information on how to file a complaint with law enforcement agencies across the state.

“Reporting police misconduct is an important step for increased police accountability,” said Legislative Director Kimberly McCullough. “People may worry that filing a report will not make a difference, but complaints of police misconduct can reveal patterns of problematic behaviors and practices, making them harder to ignore.”

McCullough added that, while it is not required, people may want to consult with an attorney before submitting a complaint as it could affect future legal proceedings.

Most of Oregon’s law enforcement agencies have complaint procedures in place; however, there is no standardized way in which that information is made available to the public. While compiling the information for the guide, we found it often required multiple phone calls to law enforcement agencies in order to find out their procedures. The lack of a straightforward complaint process can be discouraging to complainants.