PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In response to the new audit into the Portland Police Bureau’s surveillance practices, the ACLU of Oregon said the “damning report” has confirmed the organization’s long-standing belief that police violated citizen’s first-amendment rights during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
The audit, which was released this Wednesday, found Portland Police collected personally identifiable information on protesters without suspecting them of any crimes and had no firm procedures on what information they could collect, leading some officers to take and store images and videos of protesters without legal reason — and for much longer than necessary.
“The auditor’s findings confirm what we and many activists have long suspected — the Portland Police Bureau has been surveilling community members as they exercise their First Amendment right to protest and demand justice for Black lives,” ACLU of Oregon Staff Attorney Rachel Dallal Gale said. “These Cointelpro-like tactics have a long, abusive history and plainly violate Oregon law.”
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Gale said based on the auditor’s findings, the ACLU of Oregon is strongly encouraging those who protested in 2020 to inquire with the City of Portland for records to determine whether they were subject to the “intrusive practices,” outlined within the report and further demand accountability.
Although the ACLU characterized the audit as a “damning,” Gale said the findings largely confirmed what the agency had suspected for years.
“We have already successfully taken PPB to court over their illegal surveillance activities during the 2020 racial justice demonstrations – but the audit reveals that the extent of their surveillance goes even further than we understood,” Gale stated. “We agree with the City Auditor’s conclusion that ‘officers need clear direction from the Bureau to ensure they comply with the law.’”
She continued, “Portland deserves comprehensive, transparent policies governing police surveillance, as well as increased accountability from PPB leadership.”
The city auditor issued five recommendations to Portland Police to help them rebuild the trust of Portlanders, including:
- Giving guidance on how to collect information without infringing on the 1st Amendment.
- Limit access to political and social information not associated with criminal activity.
- Adopt a directive on how to use surveillance technology.
- Add more guidance on how to investigate social media posts.
- Publish how the bureau is gathering surveillance.
In response to those recommendations and the audit’s findings, Mayor Ted Wheeler — who is also the police commissioner — stated, “My team and I will work with PPB to enact all 5 of the audit recommendations, four in full and one in part.”
The ACLU of Oregon also issued its own accountability recommendations for PPB Thursday and called the mayor out by name for his leadership role as police commissioner.
“Mayor Ted Wheeler is the City Commissioner in charge of managing the Portland Police Bureau,” the agency said. “This damning report obligates the mayor to take swift action to ensure accountability for those at PPB who allowed these unlawful actions to occur, to provide a pathway for the vindication of the rights PPB violated, and to prevent it from happening again.”
To view the full response to the city audit submitted by the ACLU of Oregon, click here.