Portland City Council has officially defined its new relationship with the FBI's controversial Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). With a 4-0 vote at Wednesday's council session (Commissioner Chloe Eudaly was absent), commissioners approved new, limited terms to the city's on-again-off-again partnership with the multi-jurisdictional law enforcement team.
Instead of having two dedicated Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers sitting on the JTTF to inform local FBI investigations, the council's decided that PPB will only engage with the JTTF on a case-by-case basis.
This vote finalizes a February council decision to end city's direct involvement in the JTTF—a group comprised of agents and officers from the FBI, Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Oregon State Police, Port of Portland, Clackamas and Washington Counties, and—up until now—the PPB. This decision was introduced by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who echoed the concerns of minority communities who've been specifically tracked and targeted by the FBI for their religious affiliations or immigrant status.
The February 13 vote passed 3-2, with Commissioner Nick Fish and Mayor Ted Wheeler dissenting. Hardesty and Wheeler's offices were tasked with penning a resolution within 55 days of the vote's passage that would redefine the relationship between the PPB and JTTF. However, due to numerous disagreements over the resolution's language, it took the two council offices 84 days to cobble together a final resolution.
The clarifying resolution appoints the PPB Chief and Deputy Chief as the sole liaisons to the JTTF—and allows the chief to temporarily assign PPB officers to work with the JTTF on a case-by-case basis. When assigned, these officers are to "assist in the investigation of any individual suspected cases of terrorism and/or threats of life, including hate crimes, in or having a direct nexus to the City of Portland where there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity."
Critics of the JTTF believe this definition of terrorism is over-broad, and that the resolution doesn't go far enough to sever PPB's cozy relationship with the JTTF. In testimony before the council vote, Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman said that the agreement increases PPB's involvement with the JTTF, going against what the city council voted on in February.
The resolution also directs PPB to craft a police directive to echo this new rule and requires PPB present annual reports to the city council on their officers' involvement in the JTTF. Before making her vote, Hardesty noted that she "has no intention in accepting a meaningless report" from PPB next year.
Wheeler said the resolution represents a compromise between commissioners with very different perspectives on public safety.
"It would be my preference to stay engaged with the Joint Terrorism teask Force," Wheeler said, before voting. "By pulling out, we are no longer involved in the priorities of the task force. We do not have the opportunity to bring our Portland values to that table. That being said, this resolution answers a number of the concerns that I had."