EPD Decline FBI's request to Interview US Attorney's List
by Amy Pincus Merwin and Richard Kauffman
In response to a NY Times article, "Portland Police Won't Question Men on List", printed in today's Eugene Register Guard, we paid a visit to Eugene Police Department's PIO Pamela Alejandre. Officer Alejandre stated in this article, "We have an interest in doing whatever's necessary to protect national security interests. But we have concerns about the list, and we want to make sure those concerns are addressed."
According to her the list referred to in the newspaper is a list of approximately fifty individuals, mostly from Middle East backgrounds representing 8-9 different countries, that the US Justice department would like the Eugene Police Department to interview.
While the Eugene City Attorney reviews this request, the Eugene Police are joining the Portland Police Department in declining to conduct these interviews. Their perspective is that unless they have some clear criteria to understand how the list has been established and that there is some probable cause to speak to the people on this list the EPD is "not at all inclined to assist in this information gathering for the US Attorney."
The actual request for assistance from the US Attorney's office was not available for review as according to Alejandre it is quite detailed. Sharing concerns with the Portland police, the EPD has no reason or jurisdiction to talk with people on this list if the US Attorney's office has only put these people's names on a list because of their immigration or visa status. She stated that EPD does not have a right to speak to people on this list unless there is another issue(s) that raises the question of probable cause in the minds of local law enforcement. If there is some other indication that a name has been put on a list other than a person's nation of origin or whether, for instance, they traveled to a certain country six times in the past year EPD might consider conducting an interview. EPD has asked the US Attorney can provide more information about the criteria being established to place a name on a list by the US Attorney's office.
Probable cause would constitute that enough information had been gathered that would elevate that a person's actions over the last six months and indicated that this person might be responsible for a crime. Alejandre said that if the sole purpose for interviewing these people is based on where they are from the EPD will not participate in this process. She spoke to reassure the Eugene community that probable cause must be much more than national origin or the travel habits of an individual. She indicated that the US Attorney's request was only an information gathering activity and would be totally voluntary on the part of the interviewee. Alejandre did not know that if the FBI interviews these people whether their actions would be legal in Oregon.
Alejandre received calls from several members of the Arab community expressing concerns about this list. Because the EPD has made considerable effort to have contact and develop relationships with members of the Arab community she was able to reassure the people to whom she spoke .
EPD expects a an opinion from the city attorney by Monday.