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Your call: Mayoral and City Council candidates question on JTTF

Mayoral and City Council candidates Charlie Hales, Jefferson Smith, Amanda Fritz and Mary Nolan take a shot at Street Roots’ questions for the future of Portland.

2. The issue of local law enforcement interfacing directly with federal agencies such as the CIA and FBI is highly controversial — from cooperating with the surveillance-oriented fusion centers in Salem and Portland, to the city police participating in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. The FBI also have been involved in questionable investigations, such as the Christmas tree bomber case and raiding the homes of so-called anarchists. Where do you stand on our participation in the JTTF, and how far should our police cooperate with these federal agencies?

Charlie Hales:  I am proud of the fact that I was the first Portland elected official to vote against our involvement in the JTTF, and I am as concerned that involvement today as I was then. The issue is one of oversight — when the city joins the JTTF, we lose oversight of our police officers, which is a fundamental necessity in this city.  Not only is chain of command paramount in any police force for the accountability it creates, but under the JTTF framework, oversight excludes the Portland City Attorney and inevitably Oregon law and our constitution.

We have important work to do in improving oversight of the Police Bureau.  I’m ready to take that on.

Jefferson Smith: I support having a watchful eye. It would be naive to think that Portland can operate without any contact with our federal partners. Not only do they provide funding for certain activities, but they have resources that could be critical in the event of an emergency. Having said that, I think we need to keep at arms length from entities like the JTTF. As we work to better train our own police force, we can look to the federal government for assistance, both financially and with best training practices. The Department of Justice recommendations for our police force deserve particular attention and are one clear example of how we can work effectively with the federal government.

Our challenge is to remain in a position where we can accept and utilize the best of what the federal government has to offer without engaging in the violations of civil rights we fear from the JTTF.

I believe we should not rejoin the JTTF, but we should continue to maintain working relationships with federal partners.

Amanda Fritz: I voted to rejoin the JTTF because they are operating in Portland whether we are at the table or not, and I want the council and the public to know what they are doing.  I voted against acceptance of the first annual report of the Portland Police Bureau’s involvement in the JTTF, because the level of transparency and accountability I had called for was not evidenced in the report.  I will ask the new mayor to request top secret clearance, and to provide thorough,  annual  documentation and reporting on Portland Police officers’ involvement with the JTTF. Portlanders deserve to be safe from terrorism and safe from erosion of constitutional rights by officers sworn to serve and protect ALL.

I am endorsed by the Oregon Black Political Convention, and I hope to receive the Oregon Muslim Citizens Alliance endorsement (pending). I established the Office of Equity and Human Rights to ensure that all City bureaus and staff learn how to think and act with justice and equity as priorities.  The Office of Equity staffs the Human Rights Commission and its Community and Police Relations Committee.  I will continue to champion the work of the Office of Equity, the Human Rights Commission and the Portland Commission on Disability in my second term.

Mary Nolan: I believe strongly that all actions taken in the name of Portland should be accountable to the elected representatives of the city.  I appreciate that the terms of Portland’s current participation with the JTTF give more visibility to the details of cases in Portland than in some other cities, however I remain deeply concerned about the exclusion of the police chief and police commissioner (whether that is the mayor or a designated commissioner) from key information on the work the FBI assigns to or asks of police bureau staff. We should not allow any city of Portland employee or manager to participate in any actions that infringe on the civil rights of any person, and our cooperation should be strictly limited by that firm standard.

 Question 1. Police and mental health