Thank you for sharing your support regarding the Portland Police Bureau's
response to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's request to interview
individuals in the Portland area. I would like to give you some additional
background so that you may share it with your friends, family or neighbors
the hope that all the facts regarding this complex situation is delivered
directly to the public.
Portland's City Attorney has raised objections about the legality of certain
specific questions to be asked of individuals that the U.S. Attorney General
has identified. The U.S. Attorney General has stated that the interviews
cannot take place unless all questions are asked.
According to the U.S. Attorney General, these 23 individuals in the Portland
area are not suspected of criminal activity. Oregon State Law provides
specific protections for individuals who are not criminal suspects. While
Portland Police may ask most of the questions on the U.S. Attorney General's
list, our City Attorney believes that state law prohibits them from asking
certain specific questions. The pertinent statute is ORS 181.575.
It is our understanding that these interviews will be conducted by local
federal agents; federal authorities are not under the same state law
constraints governing the Portland Police Bureau.
The Portland Police Bureau is unequivocally committed to the fight against
terrorism, but within the provisions of Oregon State law. The Portland
Bureau continues to cooperate fully with the FBI and involved is in a Joint
Terrorism Task Force with the FBI. In fact, we have devoted 7 officers to
task force for two years, which is one of the biggest commitments of this
in Oregon. We have also committed thousands of dollars in police resources
since September 11 to combat terrorism and will continue to do so in any way
we lawfully can.
Thank you again for your comments.
Mark A. Kroeker
Chief of Police
Portland Police Bureau
The Portland Police Bureau IS doing its share
By Chief Mark A. Kroeker
The recent editorial in The Oregonian, "Clueless in Portland" (November 28,
2001), did a grave disservice to the citizens of Portland and the members of
the Portland Police Bureau. This editorial surmised that since Portland
Police Bureau officers would not conduct the 23 interviews requested by the
U.S. Attorney General of foreign nationals it is "sitting on its hands and
doing its share."
Not doing its share? You are wrong! No other police agency in the state
done more than the Portland Police Bureau. The Police Bureau has spent
hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources combating terrorism and
cooperating fully with federal agencies since September 11. Our Explosive
Disposal Unit and other members of the Police Bureau have spent massive time
and effort to train our own people and other law enforcement agencies on
response to bioterrorism threats. In October, when the FBI informed the
Police Bureau that West Coast bridges may be targeted by terrorists, it was
the Portland Police Bureau which immediately mobilized, developing and
implementing operational plans. These plans became a model and have been
shared with other jurisdictions. As the country remains under the umbrella
"heightened security," the Police Bureau continues to patrol and plan for
possible terrorist activities at vulnerable sites throughout the Portland
Not doing our share? Consider this: One of our largest ongoing commitments
combating terrorism remains the Joint Terrorism Task Force-an effort between
the Portland Police Bureau and the FBI. Portland has 8 Bureau members who
work full-time on the task force and at this very time are involved in
investigations regarding terrorism. This is the largest commitment of its
kind in the state. And we are doing our work aggressively, but legally.
Last year the Police Bureau sought City Council approval in order to be
involved in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. This was, of course, long
the events of September 11. This September, the Police Bureau went to the
City Council again to ask to renew our participation in the task force. The
Council heard two days of testimony from people who did not want the Police
Bureau to be involved in this task force. Very few citizens came to speak
support of this effort. The driving steam of the opposition's argument
to be that working with the federal government would give Portland officers
"excuse" to erode our laws. In testimony before the Council, I gave my
word that the Portland Police Bureau would meticulously follow the law.
When the request came to me from the U.S. Attorney General, I wanted to
that officers would not be violating any state laws by asking the required
questions. The legal counsel for the Police Bureau, the City Attorney,
at the original set of guidelines set forth by the U.S. Attorney that
contained possible questions. His opinion was that there were certain
questions that Portland officers could not ask or they would violate state
law. And the U.S. Attorney's Office has said that all questions must be
asked-the Portland Police Bureau cannot pick and choose which questions to
and the questions cannot be modified.
Oregon Revised Statute 181.575 is one that our City Attorney is extremely
familiar with-probably more familiar with than any other attorney in Oregon.
This is because he's the only one currently litigating cases involving this
statute, which is very broad and relates to specific information that is not
to be collected or maintained by any Oregon law enforcement agency unless
certain specific conditions are met. The Legislative Counsel, the lawyer
the Oregon Legislature who drafted this statute, agrees with our City
Attorney. In fact, he reaffirmed his decision last Friday.
However, despite the differences of opinion, the relationship between the
Police Bureau and the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI remains solid and
untouched by this controversy. We work daily with federal authorities who
understand and have first-hand knowledge of all the various activities the
Portland Police Bureau is involved in to assist them. The 23 interviews in
Portland are being done. Federal authorities are not bound by the law that
binds local police officers. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of
Oregon even issued a press release last week saying they respected and would
continue to support the Portland Police Bureau and work with us on open
This decision should not be based on public opinion. It should be based on
principle that a person can assess and stand up for no matter how difficult
gets. In this case, the principle is the law.
The Portland Police Bureau stands shoulder to shoulder with federal
authorities and all other law enforcement agencies throughout the country to
aggressively pursue terrorists and subject them to the full impact of the
To suggest that because we cannot comply with this one request by federal
authorities, that Police Bureau is not doing its share is just plain wrong.
Following the horrific events of September 11, the most common question I
received from officers has been: "What can we do to help?" The men and
of the Portland Police Bureau are devastated by the events of September 11,
just like all Americans. Officers particularly feel deeply the loss of
New York brothers and sisters in law enforcement. Some Bureau members have
even traveled to New York to help with grief counseling and medical examiner
duties. I personally called New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and
told him I had officers who wanted to come and help-if he needed them, they
would be sent. And here in Portland, I am proud of the members of the
Bureau who are continuing to help federal authorities fight terrorism and
citizens safe on a daily basis. In sum, the Portland Police Bureau is doing
all that it can and it's a remarkable effort.
Mark A. Kroeker is Chief of Police for the Portland Police Bureau.