The final vote renewing the PJTTF ordinance for this year took place today in Council chambers. The vote was 4 to 1 in favor of renewal. |
Mayor Katz was in and out of the Chambers, attending to the city employee contract negotiations, so Commissioner Francesconi acted as Council president. Amazingly, he allowed those who signed up on the "Communications" agenda to speak _before_ the vote on the task force ordinance. Four people (Dan, Kathleen Juergens, Diane, Bonnie Tinker) testified against the task force, reiterating our justifiable concerns about civil rights, secrecy, avoiding Oregon law, and so forth. Ken Spice criticized the council meeting process such as the usual placement of citizens who sign up for these three-minute "Communications" _after_ issues are voted on. (Commissioner Hales actually wrote down the City Code containing the instructions, so we may be hearing more about this sometime soon.)
Commissioner Hales again took a brave stance with the only "no" vote (although he mistakenly started to say "aye"). He went into a lengthy explanation that included his concern that there was an "erosion of community policing" after Police Chief Potter days--a move away from police interacting with the community toward a multitude of specialized task forces using special tools like the Rapid Response Team, the Auto Theft Task Force, etc. Hales stated that the PJTTF was just one more case of specialized assignment dealing with the "threat of the month."
Hales raised the issue again of "what do we do when 8 is not enough--when we have a significant problem, how do these 8 officers work with everybody else?" He made it clear he was waiting for an answer. He also asked, "How will we ever know that it is OK to stand down and let those folks go back to normal duty?"
Francesconi, of course, voted no, stating that we need civil liberties in order to be free but "to be truly free we can't be hostages." (He got kinda choked up about this, too.) He used the anthrax threat to claim that terrorism is now a reality in Portland and to claim that the police participating in the task force will increase our safety. He said we should watch it (hopefully meaning watch the task force and not as a warning to us) and review it again in a year. (That was safe for him to say since the ordinance has to be renewed in a year anyway.)
Sten did his usual stuff - sounding as if he's going to vote no, then stating that we're better off participating with the FBI than letting them run around on their own, and voting yes. He spoke about receiving a letter from the ACLU that pointed out there is no federal law prohibiting external oversight of the FBI. He stated that they would be looking into that (one hopes "they'" doesn't mean the City Attorney).
Also, Sten said that the Mayor supported third party oversight of the CIU - that the oversight would most likely come from the IPR, not the City Attorney. These are items that definitely need follow-up, although the IPR is limited by its structure and lack of true independence.
Dan brought up a good point about reviewing the task force 6 months from now in a public forum away from the emotion of the times. Sten supported that point but nothing concrete was decided. It may be another good point to pursue with Council in the near future.
Saltzman tried to refute various testimonies without displaying any great intellectual skill prior to his "yes" vote. (Those who remember his stance on the Dora McCrae case, where he was the only person who thought police used excessive force on the 60+-year-old African-American grandmother, are still wondering where that burst of civil libertarianism came from.) He said all of the community's concerns were heard but, hey, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose (and guess who loses). In response to Dan's charge that pitting the abortion rights folks against other members of the community was unconscionable, Saltzman stated that the Council didn't orchestrate the pro-choice panel that spoke on September 26th. (Actually, we guess he's right--the police did. Regardless of who did, it _was_ clearly stated that the "pro" side were all people who had been _invited_ to testify.)
For her part, the Mayor was livid at Hales' explanation of his vote. She stated that she couldn't let his remarks go unanswered. She stated, "many times 8 is not enough, and we do, in fact, bring in as many officers as we need to make sure that we have enough protection for both the demonstrators and the public, so it's far more than eight when necessary." Why was she talking about demonstrators when the issue is supposed to be terrorists? Oops! That was a pretty telling slip-up!
She also claimed that the erosion of community policing was just an "urban myth" - that task forces were around even when Tom Potter was Chief and crime rates are at a 30 year low supposedly because of the task forces. (Not acknowledging that people may not be reporting crimes as much as they used to, that our prison population is now over 2 million in this country, or that social services preventative programs may be working, and that task forces may have been around for a while, but they've definitely been expanded funding-wise, staff-wise, and weapon-wise.)
As a side note, the item didn't get onto the agenda until around 12:45 pm, much later than anticipated--we expected it to happen around 11:00am.
Overall, we did good by signing up for those "Communication" slots. Who knows why Francesconi let us speak before the vote--but we certainly made a difference, as nearly everyone's testimony prompted a response from Council. We will keep you posted as we learn more and if there are more opportunities for input.