Portland’s crowd control policy leads to escalations of conflict
February 15, 2017 - The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) sent a letter to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) urging them to revise their policy related to crowd management and crowd control (Directive 635.10) in order to improve police interactions with peaceful protests. The group says PPB’s current policy has serious flaws and that additional clashes between protesters and police appear inevitable if the policy remains unchanged.
“Portland’s protest policy should emphasize restraint, de-escalation, and the use of force only as a last resort to ensure public health, safety, and welfare,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon.
The ACLU of Oregon is concerned that the current policy conflates threats to public safety with constitutionally protected activity that may be perceived as disruptive or disorderly. Furthermore, the group urged new thinking around the use of riot gear and crowd control weapons and tactics.
“Current social science shows that the use of militarized police or police dressed in “hard gear” leads to escalation of conflict, not de-escalation,” said Katherine McDowell, vice president for legal affairs at the ACLU of Oregon. “Many of the Portland Police Bureau’s crowd control weapons and tactics pose significant and irreparable health consequences and should be employed only in very limited circumstances.”
The militarized and heavy-handed police approach to protest in Portland is expensive, dangerous, and threatens our democracy.
January 25, 2017 - In stark contrast to the policing of the Portland Women’s March the next day, which was by many accounts congenial and effective, the law enforcement response to the Inauguration Day protests was violent and excessive. Protesters, journalists, bystanders, and our own ACLU legal observers have shared disturbing reports and video that show the chilling presence of hundreds of officers in riot-gear, many of whom were only recently trained, directing the crowd with confusing, and at times contradictory, orders and force. Finally, in what is becoming an all too common occurrence, the protest was ended through the deployment of so-called “crowd control devices,” resulting not just in the silencing of First Amendment activities, but also causing serious injuries to the public. No matter what others have said, this was a failure.
Last night, we learned that Portland Police Bureau (“PPB”) arrested Gregory McKelvey, Kathryn Stevens, and Micah Rhodes, members of PDX Resistance and well-known organizers. Targeting individuals for arrest for constitutionally protected speech is prohibited by law.
PDX Resistance organizers were singled out for arrest despite engaging in activities similar to peaceful protesters in their vicinity. From our view, the only distinguishing characteristic is their role as leaders in other recent protests that were publicly opposed by your offices.
The ACLU of Oregon joins the calls urging those few who have been engaged in violence and vandalism during the protests to stop. However, we fully rebuke both your calls for the protests to end and your statement that protest cannot effect change in our democracy. American history, indeed world history, is full of stories of protest that opened the path to change.
Peaceful assembly and protest is at the heart of our democracy. It may not always be convenient or pretty, but we think it is powerful.
October 4, 2016 - The Portland City Council will soon vote on whether to ratify an agreement with the Portland Police Association about a new police union contract and a draft body camera policy. The agreement creates a serious risk that body cameras will not serve as a tool for accountability in Portland by giving the Portland Police Association too much power over the contents of the body camera policy. Because of this, and concerns that the public was shut out of negotiations over the police union contract, we have asked the Portland City Council not to ratify the agreement.
Police body cameras have the potential to serve as a much-needed police oversight tool, but if the technology is to be effective at providing oversight, reducing police abuses, and increasing community trust, it is vital that the cameras be deployed with good policies to ensure they accomplish those goals. Without good policies, body cameras risk becoming just another police surveillance device—and one with very real potential to invade privacy.
Kimberly McCullough, legislative director at the ACLU of Oregon, said:
“We are encouraged that Oregon law enforcement recognize that harsh drug laws have been a failure, wasting taxpayer money and disproportionately impacting communities of color. Criminalization does not help people struggling with addiction and often exacerbates their problems. There are more effective ways to use Oregon’s limited resources to address this public health issue.”
David Rogers, executive director at the ACLU of Oregon, said:
“Longer criminal sentences are not always the path to justice, safety, or solving challenging social problems. I am pleased to see Oregon law enforcement leaders promoting a smarter approach in our state. Policies that prevent people from rebuilding their lives are bad for Oregon. When someone is charged with a felony drug crime it can follow them for life, preventing access to housing, employment, education, and more.”
April 12, 2016 - Yesterday a report on the surveillance of Black Lives Matter in Oregon was released by the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ). The report confirmed what we learned back in November: that an agent who works for the Criminal Division of DOJ was testing a surveillance program, called Digital Stakeout, by searching various key words, including #BlackLivesMatter. The agent then mistook posts from DOJ’s own Director of Civil Rights, including a post of a Public Enemy logo and political cartoons, as a threat to law enforcement and wrote a memo that was passed all the way up the chain of command to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum before it was, finally, rejected as dangerous, racial profiling. The Attorney General hired an outside attorney to conduct an independent investigation of the matter to determine if policies or laws were violated.
After reading through the report and looking through the exhibits, we are left with more questions than answers. I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the lack of awareness that was revealed of both the law and of what might constitute a threat. This is not only shameful, but also dangerous. Given the power that they wield, I am dismayed at the state of the Criminal Justice Division and afraid for the Oregonians that are supposed to be protected by them. Self-reinforced bias, against protesters, black people, and who knows who else, has left the agency ill-equipped to do their job.
“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.
Reporting police misconduct is an important step that can lead to better police accountability. However, some people who feel they were mistreated or had their rights violated do not file complaints. Often it is because they don’t know how to do it, they think it won’t make a difference, or they are afraid of retaliation.
Even though an individual complaint may not result in any changes, over time, complaints can add up and show patterns of problematic behaviors and practices.
While most law enforcement agencies in Oregon have a complaint procedure, it is not always easy to figure out how to file a complaint or where to file it. To help make the complaint process clearer, we have created the “How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon” resource.
“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.
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.
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.
June 5, 2013 - A report issued this week by the National ACLU, based on state crime reports provided to the FBI, shows that Oregon law enforcement agencies increased the rate of citations and arrests for possession of marijuana by 45% between 2001 and 2010. Oregon’s increase was the fifth highest in the country during that period. Nationwide, African-Americans were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than Whites despite comparable usage rates.
Analysis by the ACLU of Oregon of data made available by the Oregon State Police, shows that 90% of the marijuana possession incidents in 2010 involved less than 1 ounce of marijuana, which is punishable as a violation under state law and does not lead to arrest or jail time. That same data shows that Lane County reported the highest number of marijuana enforcement actions in 2010 with 16.7% of all marijuana possession citations and arrests statewide. Jackson County was second with 13.2%, Multnomah County was third with 8.32%, and Marion County was fourth with 7.0% of the statewide total for marijuana possession citations and arrests.
February 29, 2012 – Significantly modified reports on the City of Portland’s relationship with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) were approved by the City Council after the ACLU’s testified they were greatly improved, but still lacked data that would permit the public to independently confirm that Oregon law and the Constitution are being honored by the City.
Last week, the ACLU had issued a detailed analysis that strongly criticized the original draft reports issued February 13 by Police Chief Mike Reese and Mayor Sam Adams. In prepared testimony today, ACLU of Oregon Executive Director David Fidanque detailed the specific improvements in the final reports, which will be made annually to the City Council in the future.
February 23, 2012 – The ACLU of Oregon today released its detailed analysis of the City of Portland’s relationship with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) ten months after the City Council approved a resolution authorizing the Police Bureau to cooperate with the JTTF on individual terrorism investigations.
The ACLU’s analysis strongly criticized the draft reports issued last week by Police Chief Mike Reese and Mayor Sam Adams saying the reports indicate the City has been violating the Council’s resolution which was approved only last April. The ACLU had supported the resolution at that time, but now says the City should suspend its cooperation with the FBI because important safeguards in the resolution have apparently been ignored.
Are you confident in asserting your rights when dealing with police? Do you know when an officer has the right to search you? Are you prepared to respond to an officer’s questions with a respectful “I choose to remain silent”?
Many of us do not have the knowledge and confidence to stand up for our basic rights during an encounter with law enforcement. Knowing these rights and how to assert them should be a part of our basic education but, sadly, it is not. So the ACLU of Oregon has launched a campaign to train people on their basic rights when dealing with law enforcement.