PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A recent report from the Portland City Auditor shows that police have reformed some of their intelligence-gathering techniques since 2022, but the bureau still needs to make further changes to its surveillance procedures.
The 2022 city audit focused on whether the Portland Police Bureau protected protesters’ civil rights when gathering information during the 2020 protests, and how surveillance technology was used during those events and in general.
According to 2022’s report, PPB failed to give its staff guidance on what information to collect during protests. The audit additionally said the Criminal Intelligence Unit didn’t restrict access to these data, which were therefore kept past their retention schedule.
Former City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero gave Portland police five recommendations to improve their information-gathering policies. These recommendations included guiding officers on how to conduct investigations while upholding civil rights, and requiring staff members to document social media use for investigations.
On Tuesday, the City Auditors’ office released an update on PPB’s intelligence-gathering techniques. According to the audit, Portland police have advanced a number of surveillance policies — but other recommendations have yet to be addressed.
In particular, the update says PPB’s Records Division is developing a procedure to ‘destroy’ records that are no longer associated with criminal activity.
Furthermore, the 2022 audit recommended that Portland police establish a surveillance technology directive that features “Council authorization of technology, advice from a privacy commission, and requirements for policies and reporting.”
The City Auditor reports that a new standard operating procedure has been adopted by PPB, but it’s missing key features.
“For example, the procedure included authorization from the Commissioner in Charge instead of the City Council and did not include advice from a privacy commission,” the audit said. “Making the approval process more transparent may alleviate some public fears about inappropriate surveillance.”
In addition, the City Auditor advised Portland police to establish new rules for investigating First Amendment activity. The Auditors’ Office says PPB did update its policies on managing Criminal Intelligence Files in March of this year, but the policy doesn’t include significant elements such as who can collect information or when “invasive investigation techniques” can be utilized.
The Auditor’s Office says Portland police are considering adding these elements to the policy before its next review and will release its first public report on surveillance technology in 2024.
PPB’s proposed directive on limiting social media use for a “valid law enforcement purpose” is still under review, according to the report.
“We regularly work with the Auditor’s Office on their reports and ongoing recommendations,” Portland police said in a statement. “We remain committed to that partnership.”