POLICE COMMISSIONER Dan Saltzman has so far resisted a call made last week by a majority of his council colleagues for the city to publish its "secret list" of downtown offenders.
The list targets the most frequent arrestees in Old Town for felony prosecution on crimes that would otherwise be prosecuted as misdemeanors, as well as offering them drug treatment. The Mercury first exposed the list's existence in April 2008.
There is no way to find out if you are on the list, and no way to challenge your status on the list—as such, it has already faced its first constitutional challenge in court, when a judge overturned the felony prosecution of two defendants involved in the program ["Secret List on Trial," News, Jan 15]. Broader constitutional challenges are expected soon, but in the meantime, the city has continued in its refusal to share the list with the public, on the advice of city attorneys.
City council voted last Wednesday, August 26, to pay almost $1 million to Multnomah County to administer various parts of the Neighborhood Livability Crime Enforcement Program (NLCEP), which in turn administers the list. But the discussion took an unexpected turn after council faced questions from public defense attorney Chris O'Connor about keeping the list secret.
"I want to say treatment is great, I support it," said O'Connor, when the ordinance eventually came up for discussion. "But secret lists are bad, and singling out people for enhanced prosecution is something that history has taught us to be very wary of."
"Commissioner Saltzman and I have one small disagreement, which is publish this list," responded City Commissioner Randy Leonard. "Other than that this is a remarkable program."
"I want to add my voice to the chorus arguing for publishing the list," said City Commissioner Nick Fish. "We get good legal advice from the city attorney's office, but ultimately we are the clients."
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she agreed with the remarks made by Fish and Leonard. "It's public record how many times someone has been arrested," she said. "So why would we want to keep it secret? Since people could go to the trouble to get hold of this information themselves, I think the fact that it has been kept secret has become a distraction."
Despite three out of five council members calling for the list's publication (Mayor Sam Adams was unable to attend the meeting), it is still not clear if the names will ever see the light of day. For his part, Leonard said he would not file a city ordinance forcing the publication of the list.
"I will defer to Dan's judgment," Leonard said, after the council session. "But if I was the police commissioner and I heard what I heard today, I would come back to my office and order the police chief to publish the list on the web."
"We're looking into it," says Saltzman's chief of staff, Brendan Finn. "Stay tuned."