Portland City Council grilled law enforcement officials today at a work group to discuss the partnership between the Portland Police Bureau and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The questions and answers offer clues to how tomorrow's City Council meeting will unfold, with two opposing measures set for debate in the afternoon. A resolution proposed by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty would withdraw police involvement in the JTTF. Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Nick Fish have introduced a competing ordinance that would reaffirm the partnership, while making some changes to the memorandum of understanding between the feds and PPB.
Fish said during the work group that he believes the partnership benefits the city, though he supports some changes to the memorandum. Commissioner Amanda Fritz has long opposed PPB's entanglement with the JTTF.
That likely leaves Commissioner Chloe Eudaly to decide whether the city will remain engaged with the federal task force.
A spokeswoman for Eudaly says the commissioner will not publicly announce her decision until the votes tomorrow. "She's still evaluating the situation," says spokeswoman Margaux Weekes.
But Eudaly's questions during the work session suggest she has serious doubts about PPB's partnership with the FBI.
"I know there are many good people, most of the people involved are good people," she said before launching into a series of questions about whether the JTTF violates peoples' civil rights. "However, good people can make bad decisions."
Eudaly said it was not reassuring to hear law enforcement officials—both local and federal—praise the successes of joint terrorism task forces around the U.S. without acknowledging some of the civil rights violations other task forces have been caught up in.
She pointed to surveillance of leftist activists in particular.
"I personally was connected to a group of activists in the early 1990s that was being illegally surveilled by the Portland Police Bureau," she says. "This isn't some wing-nut conspiracy theory that these things happen. I know they happen because they happened to people I know and groups that I was connected to. And I can say that I was not planning to nor did I commit any crimes. And I felt that my civil rights were violated and that my ability to exercise those rights was discouraged."
Her first question: "How do we justify the risk of civil and human rights violations by our continued involvement in JTTF?"
She also pressed federal officials on whether the FBI had dedicated an appropriate amount of resources to investigating right-wing and white nationalist extremists, whom she called the "real threat to public safety."
Although her questions exposed her serious concerns with the JTTF, Eudaly did not say how she will vote tomorrow.
City Council is set to discuss the city's involvement in the JTTF at 2 pm Feb. 13.