Should Portland be part of terrorism task force?

City Council vote February 5

Portland City Hall (Undated photo, Sera)
Portland City Hall (Undated photo, Sera)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — The Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested a Cincinnati-area man on Wednesday for a plot to attack the U.S. Capitol and kill government officials.

But Portland city officials are considering not being a part of the task force.

It has been four years since commissioners heard testimony in favor of the task force. Former U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton argued pairing federal agents with Portland police will, in part, provide local insight on current terrorism cases. And he tried to put to rest opponent’s concerns officers will violate your civil liberties.

Holton admitted in a February 15, 2011 meeting video there’s an uptick in homegrown terror attacks and they’re easier to detect with local law enforcement insight.

“It’s a time when local sensibilities that PPB brings to the table as the state’s largest police force makes all the difference in the world,” said Holton.

The Portland Police Bureau first teamed up with the JTTF in the 90s. But the City Council voted to withdraw in 2005. Then, it reconsidered five years later after the foiled Pioneer Courthouse Square Christmas bomb plot.

“I think some people think the JTTF is a firehouse model, that we’re sitting around waiting for the bell to ring, a lead to come in and we go off and chase it and that’s not right,” said Holton.

He said there are current terrorism suspects the task force could brief the PPB about daily if it took a more active role.

Opponents are concerned officers investigations would break a state law that says it’s illegal to gather information based on someone’s religion or race. The American Civil Liberties Union addressed that at the same 2011 meeting as Holton.

“Are we supposed to believe a Portland officer is going to demand the FBI produce the necessary documentation to show an officer is engaged in an investigation that complies with Oregon law?” asked ACLU of Oregon representative Andrea Meyer. “That doesn’t seem realistic.”

In 2001, then Commissioner Charlie Hales voted against the task force. He’s expected to cast another vote as mayor with the other commissioners February 5, which could finally decide the fate of the city’s relationship with the JTTF.

Originally, the vote was scheduled for Thursday. KOIN 6 News has not been able to reach commissioners about why it was delayed and get answers about their opinions on the task force ahead of the vote.

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