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 Hears Oregon Protest Case

Michael Moss with NPR's Nina TotenbergMarch 26, 2014 - Washington D.C. - The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in Wood v. Moss, a case brought by us on behalf of a multi-generational group of peaceful protesters, who were forcibly moved on orders of the Secret Service to a place where their protests could no longer be seen or heard by President Bush. The protest took place during a visit to Jacksonville, Oregon in 2004. Demonstrators supporting the President were allowed to remain much closer to him.

The lawsuit claims that the protesters were targeted because of their political views in violation of their free speech rights.

“The Secret Service does not have immunity from the First Amendment,” said Steven M. Wilker, a lawyer with Tonkon Torp LLP in Portland, who argued the case as a cooperating attorney for the ACLU.

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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

Sheriffs Suspend ICE Holds

April 17, 2014 - With their announcement that they intend to suspend the practice of honoring requests from federal immigration enforcement to hold individuals in their jail without probable cause, Sheriffs in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties acted today for the benefit of public safety in their communities. The ACLU applauds their action.

“We have long advocated that honoring warrantless ICE detainers is unlawful and also makes law enforcement’s job harder because it destroys trust in the community,” said David Fidanque, Executive Director. “We are thrilled that these Sheriffs are taking note of recent court decisions and abandoning a practice we believe violates state law and both the Oregon and United States Constitution.”

An “ICE detainer”—or “immigration hold”—has been a controversial tool use by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) routinely to apprehend individuals who come in contact with local and state law enforcement agencies. An ICE detainer is a written request that a local jail or other law enforcement agency detain an individual for an additional 48 hours after his or her release date, for the convenience of ICE agents so that they can decide whether to take the individual into federal custody and begin formal deportation proceedings. The detainers generally are not accompanied with a warrant based on probable cause.

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License Plates Scanned, Tracked, and Recorded in Oregon

July 19, 2013 - Four Oregon jurisdictions are known to be among the hundreds nationwide that the American Civil Liberties Union says are using automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) scanners to assemble a "single, high-resolution image of our lives.” Clackamas County, Oregon City, Portland, and Salem had confirmed local use of ALPRs by fall 2012—one vehicle-mounted device in Oregon City, four devices each in in Portland and Clackamas (we have since learned that Portland utilizes an additional twelve ALPRs), and one “system” with an unspecified number of devices in Salem. Medford provided a draft policy but no information about actual systems in use. The ACLU of Oregon was one of 38 state affiliates that participated in the coordinated nationwide effort that netted more than 26,000 pages of documents from 300 police departments and agencies through 587 freedom of information requests.

The rapid proliferation of ALPR systems in the U.S. through 2012 and the dangers of collecting and storing information about innocent people without uniform policies and procedures are decried in “You Are Being Tracked,” an ACLU report released Wednesday, July 17, 2013. Law enforcement agencies use ALPRs without probable cause or warrants. These tools were designed to enable efficient police work but, in effect, enable retroactive surveillance of millions of unsuspected—and unsuspecting—people. They allow authorities to know how often a driver frequents a place (such as a bar), joins a protest, gets medical or mental help, is being unfaithful to a spouse, and much more, and existing restrictions on how the information can be used are vague at best.

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