Statement from Commissioner Fish: the Joint Terrorism Task Force
February 19, 2015
Today, I voted to fully rejoin the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
Why? Because I believe that we can strengthen public safety and security without sacrificing Oregon values.
In 2011, following a lengthy and thoughtful community-wide debate, I supported a compromise approach: the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) would rejoin the JTTF on as “as-needed” basis. In spite of the best efforts of all involved, it did not work as planned.
As a City Commissioner, I take very seriously my duty to keep Portlanders safe.
Since 2011, the world has become an even more dangerous place. We have been witness to senseless violence, both domestic and foreign. Recent terror attacks in Boston, Paris, and Copenhagen are stark reminders that freedom requires vigilance at home and abroad.
Every other major city in America, including New York and San Francisco, participates in the JTTF. As former and current police chiefs and U.S. attorneys explained to me, we are safer when local, state and federal law enforcement share information and talk to each other on a regular basis.
And when our trained Portland Police officers are at the table, they help guide investigations consistent with our values.
As a former civil rights lawyer, I also take very seriously my responsibility to protect our cherished Constitutional freedoms and liberties. At a recent Council hearing, critics of the JTTF raised concerns about erosion of Constitutionally-protected privacy, the legacy of the FBI, and our ability to ensure compliance with Oregon laws prohibiting the random collection of data on Oregonians outside of a criminal investigation. These are important concerns, and we must enter any new relationship with our eyes wide open.
We do not have to sacrifice accountability in order to participate in the JTTF. Police Chief Larry O’Dea has stated his preference to post two highly-trained officers with the JTTF, supervised by a sergeant, all reporting to the Chief and Mayor.
The Chief already has “secret” clearance, while the Mayor can access all relevant information under the terms of a standard non-disclosure agreement. The City Attorney would provide regular legal advice to the Chief and the Mayor, and training on Oregon law to the PPB officers. This ensures that the proper chain of command is followed.
Effective community policing is based on strong relationships between community members and federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. Portland police officers already work closely and effectively with federal law enforcement in numerous task forces, including the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force, Safe Streets Task Force, and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.
The task force model strengthens community policing by coordinating multiple resources to focus on some of our most difficult public safety issues.
Whether we are addressing the national problems of child sex trafficking or domestic terrorism, we are stronger when we work together.
Finally, today’s JTTF is supervised by the Obama Justice Department – not Bush, Cheney, or Ashcroft.
Speaking to the JTTF in New York, the President said:
“Together your success in thwarting terrorist attacks, the strong intelligence you've gathered, and the hard-nosed investigations you've pursued has proved to be a model for law enforcement officials across the country.”
The time has come to fully join with the JTTF. Portlanders rightly expect that protecting their safety is a fundamental responsibility of their Mayor and City Council. I believe that we can meet that responsibility and safeguard civil liberties by joining the JTTF.