People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Joint Terrorism Task Force Annual Report:
Since late 2000 when we found an item hidden on the City Council's "consent agenda" about Portland Police cooperation with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), Portland Copwatch has been organizing with others in the community to oppose the relationship. The FBI's history and its lax standards to open investigations means Portland Police working with the JTTF are even more likely to violate the rights of people of color, activists, immigrants, Muslims, and others, in violation of Oregon's state anti-spying law (ORS 181A.250). In 2019, when the City voted to mostly get out of the JTTF for the second time (the first time being 2005-2011), the resolution allowing case-by- case cooperation also required an annual report on the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)'s interactions with the JTTF. The annual report was the fourth one presented to City Council, but only the second where the public was able to testify (PPR #s 80, 83 & 86). The new report includes information on only three of ten cases sent by the FBI to the PPB, and three sent by the PPB to the FBI. With little explanation why these cases would be considered either "terrorism" or hate crimes, as required for the PPB to get involved, the report was mostly without substance.
There is something to be said for the fact that the former head of the PPB Criminal Intelligence Unit, Sgt. Pete Simpson, retired to go work for the District Attorney's office (uh, oh!) and Sgt. Mark Friedman took over. The report presented in 2022 originally had wildly speculative statements about increased terrorism after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, reflecting Simpson's conservative politics. This year's was more palatable.
At the hearing on January 25, Sgt. Friedman read most of the details into the record. Of the three known cases sent by the FBI to Portland, one had to do with a person manufacturing gun parts, one making threats to community members through the media, and the only one which could perhaps be seen as terrorism was a threat against a federal elected official. However, the FBI sent this directly to the PPB's "Behavioral Health Unit" because they realized the person has mental health issues. Two of the three were identified as white people and the third was unknown.
The three cases the Bureau sent to the FBI were about a "threat of targeted violence," a shooting in which a person was killed and others injured, and a different non-injury shooting that took place at a protest. There were five people involved in the three cases, identified as four white men and one white female.
Public testimony started with the ACLU's Jude al-Ghazal Stone, who gave the history of Portland's on-again, off-again entanglement with the FBI's Task Force and the anti-spying law which ACLU championed into existence in the 1980s. He told a personal story about his grandmother, who's a model citizen and librarian, who has been questioned many times since 9/11 because of her Arab heritage. Stone noted that when the City first withdrew from the Task Force in 2005, it was by Mayor Tom Potter, a former police chief who could not get security clearance to oversee his own officers who were working with the FBI.
Marleen Wallingford of the Portland Japanese American Citizens League reminded Council of the FBI's history of tracking members of her community in the 1930s and 1940s due to their race, leading to mass arrests after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Then Brandon Mayfield told his own story of being improperly spied upon and arrested by the FBI in 2004 and the FBI sting against Somali teenager Mohamed Mohamud which led to the City re-entering the Task Force in 2011. Dan Handelman spoke for Peace and Justice Works and Portland Copwatch about the years 2011- 15 when the City had rejoined the JTTF and the reports had even less information in them. Last up was Debbie Aiona of the League of Women Voters, who explained that one of their basic principles is public participation, noting that people might be dissuaded from engaging in political activity if they know the FBI and Portland Police are conducting surveillance on them.
As they voted, each Commissioner except for recently-elected Rene Gonzalez made comments. Commissioner Carmen Rubio reminded Council that she worked for Mayor Potter when the city pulled out in 2005, and thanked the community members who spoke for continuing to raise questions about the relationship. She also indicated that with the rise of right wing hate groups she feels that working with the FBI is a more nuanced issue. Commissioner Dan Ryan also thanked the community for raising concerns, saying he was pulled over a lot for scrutiny in airports after 9/11. He chalked that up to protests against the Iraq war. He closed by saying the City needs to "be at the table" so law enforcement can "keep us safe."
Commissioner Mingus Mapps called out a few particular cases from the report, saying he was disturbed by someone manufacturing illegal gun parts. That case was turned over to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms-- which is probably where it should have gone in the first place. He mischaracterized a case in which a person threatened other community members by contacting the media, saying the media themselves were the targets. He led up to his announcement that he wants to revisit rejoining the JTTF by implying that the current situation is creating barriers for the Portland Police-- for which there was zero testimony, even from the police (notably, Chief Lovell introduced the agenda item).
Finally, Mayor Wheeler noted he was one of two who lost the 2019 vote, reminding everyone that the current status quo is based on a compromise between those who wanted out and those who wanted to stay in. He praised the "transparency" of the report, voted aye, and closed the hearing.
PCW and its allies will continue to request that if the City will not sever their ties with the historically racist, anti-labor, anti-progressive activism organization that is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at least there should be more clarity in the reports as to why these cases fall under their purview.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.