Portland City Council has voted to withdraw Portland police representatives from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), a cross-jurisdictional group of regional law enforcement officials who collaborate on domestic terrorist cases.
This decision, which followed three hours of public testimony, means that the two Portland police officers who currently sit on the controversial task force must cede their involvement within 90 days. It's a move that the FBI, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Chief Danielle Outlaw, and Mayor Ted Wheeler strongly oppose.
Today's decision hinged on the swing vote of Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, the only commissioner who hadn't made her stance public before the 2 pm meeting.
Before casting her vote, Eudaly said she wished the council had been given more time to reach consensus as a body. "However, the testimony I heard today has gone a long way toward easing my concerns," Eudaly said.
The vast majority of public testimony came from community members who urged the council to leave the JTTF, citing concerns of secret investigations between PPB and the FBI, and pointing to the FBI's history of targeting people based on their religion, race, or political beliefs.
"Sometimes we have to make decisions in a flawed system that satisfy no one, and sometimes we get to challenge and change the system," Eudaly said. "And this is one of those times."
The audience erupted in applause and cheers after she affirmed her support to withdraw. Portland joins San Francisco in being the only cities who've withdrawn their police from a JTTF.
Wheeler and Commissioner Fish voted to remain in the task force, both arguing that having "Portland values" at the table during JTTF conversations is far better than not being able to give input to FBI investigations.
"In short, we are ceding these opportunities by walking away, rather than remaining aggressively engaged," said Wheeler. "We’re here today with real challenges, and we need the tools to face them. Ending this partnership gives us fewer tools in a much more dangerous world."
Wheeler said the vote was the least surprising outcome of any city council session he's attended since entering the mayor's office. He said the discussion has been less about policy, and more about a lack of trust in law enforcement—specifically at the federal level.
"But, if we believe the JTTF is not accountable enough, then it's our job to be stewards of this partnership and make it better over time," Wheeler said, in closing. "It is not to respond by dong away with it entirely because of what could be taking place as opposed to what is actually taking place."
Some officials suggested that the vote had been rushed by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, whose 2018 campaign centered on pulling PPB from the JTTF immediately.
"I reject the notion that this vote is somehow rushed," Hardesty said this afternoon, noting that community groups have been working for over a decade to keep the city from working with FBI agents. Today's vote is the third time the Portland City Council has held a vote on its involvement in the JTTF.
Hardesty, Commissioner Amanda Fritz, and Eudaly all expresses concerns about the FBI's recorded leniency toward white nationalist groups.
"Members of white supremacist groups are responsible for the vast majority of extremist-related fatalities in the past year, yet they don't appear to be the focus of the FBI or the JTTF," Eudaly said.
"I continue to believe that we are safest when communities are connected to each other and their government," Eudaly went on. "Both the perception and actual activities of the JTTF undermines their trust, and therefore, cannot make us safe. Today we take another step in the direction of the greater good."