Portland Leaves the Joint Terrorism Task Force Again, Becoming Second U.S. City to Cut Ties

The move makes Portland the second city to cut ties with an FBI task force, after San Francisco left its JTTF in 2017.

Department of Homeland Security officers guard a Patriot Prayer protest in Terry Schrunk Plaza on June 30, 2018. (Sam Gehrke)

Portland city council voted to withdraw from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The move makes Portland the second city to cut ties with an FBI task force, after San Francisco left its JTTF in 2017. Portland had rejoined the JTTF in 2015.

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly voted with Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Amanda Fritz to pull Portland police officers out of the JTTF, which investigates potential extremist threats.

Commissioner Nick Fish opposed Hardesty's resolution to pull out of the task force. They had proposed making changes to the memorandum that guided the partnership between local police and federal law enforcement agencies.

Eudaly had not publicly indicated her vote before Wednesday's City Council meeting.

"I believe we all want the same thing, we want to keep our communities safe," Eudaly said. "We want to direct our resources toward actual threats."

Before voting in favor of withdraw, Eudaly said she did not trust the federal administration or feel safer now than five years ago.

Hardesty had led the push to withdraw from the JTTF since winning election in November.

"When we talk about one Portland, a Portland where everyone is respected, we cannot in good conscious continue our participation with the JTTF," Hardesty said.

Wheeler and Fish voiced concerns that pulling out of the task force would put the city at a disadvantage because police would not have access to information on extremist threats.

"Doesn't that mean we're missing the opportunity to assist with priorities and bringing our city's values to the table?" Wheeler asked during the deliberation.

Opponents of the JTTF partnership presented examples of the FBI investigating civil rights advocates and largely peaceful left-leaning groups as potential terrorism threats and extremists while labelling groups such as the KKK as "victims."

Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now an advocate for leaving the JTTF, pointed to terrorist attacks in Boston and Philadelphia that occurred despite those cities partnering with the FBI.

Commissioner Fritz echoed that sentiment.

"The city of Boston's participation in the JTTF did not prevent the Boston Marathon bombing," Fritz said before voting in favor of the resolution to withdraw. "The city of Portland's participation in the JTTF did not prevent he MAX stabbings."

Supporters of staying in the JTTF, including Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, emphasized the benefits of the partnership for both the Portland police and the FBI. The police bureau attempted to assuage fears that a partnership with the JTTF would give federal immigration officials access to local law enforcement data.

"While values are important," Wheeler said, "values alone cannot protect the safety of the community."

Despite those assurances, City Council voted to leave the task force.

Functionally, that will remove two Portland Police officers from the task force. Those positions were funded through federal grants hat the bureau will no longer receive, but the total funds were a negligible portion of the PPB budget.

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