Police Practices

"If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy."
-- Louis Brandeis,
U.S. Supreme Court Justice,
Olmstead v. United States (1928)

Police have the vital and difficult job of protecting public safety. Performing this job effectively does not require sacrificing civil liberties or civil rights. All Oregon police agencies, from the state patrol to city police forces, need to respect the rights of individuals while enforcing the law. And when misconduct occurs, there must be policies and mechanisms for holding police accountable for their actions.

ACLU is also working to eliminate racial and ethnic profiling in police practices that have a disproportionate impact on individuals merely because of their race, color, national origin or religion.

For more information on your rights when stopped by the police, please feel free to download our Your Rights in Oregon card (under Related Documents).

Litigation

Victory! ACLU of Oregon Settles Lawsuit on Behalf of Portland Woman Whose Phone was Seized While Filming Police in 2013

Carrie Medina filming policeApril 10, 2017 – The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) today announced that a settlement had been reached with TriMet, the City of Portland, and the City of Gresham in a federal lawsuit stemming from a 2013 incident when a Portland woman’s phone was seized while live streaming police activity. The lawsuit, Carrie Medina v. City of Portland, et al, argued that Medina’s constitutional rights were violated when a Gresham police officer snatched her phone from her hands, twisted her arm, and detained her while she was live streaming police activity.

“My experience may have been eye opening for many, but it was no surprise to those who have regular encounters with law enforcement,” said Carrie Medina, plaintiff in the suit.

The ACLU lawsuit alleged that police violated Medina’s free speech and free press rights when they stopped her live stream broadcast of a police encounter involving multiple law enforcement agencies near a Trimet stop. The suit also alleged that Medina’s rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated when the officer seized and then searched her phone without her consent or a search warrant, and that the officer also unlawfully detained her that day.

WATCH: An officer grabs Carrie Medina's phone in Portland in 2013.

The settlement agreement stipulated that Portland and Gresham must adopt new police policies and training regarding the public’s right to film police activities. The City of Gresham’s new policy under the settlement went into effect in May 2016 and the City of Portland’s new policy went into effect in October 2016. The City of Gresham was also required to pay $85,000 in legal fees to Medina.

“Carrie wholeheartedly believes in the power of filming the police as a tool to increase accountability,” said Alan Galloway, attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine who represented Medina. “Carrie was clear that she wanted her case to bring about policy changes to protect the right to film police, not monetary damages. Although the settlement took a lot of time and effort to reach, the resulting policies and training clearly recognize the Constitutional right to film the police.”

“Bystander video has had an incredible impact on the way Americans understand police encounters,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon. “Now anyone with a cell phone can expose injustice and hold police accountable. It is critical that police policies recognize and respect the public’s right to film police.”

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Police Accountability Advocates Call for Portland Police Bureau Protest Policy Changes

March 22, 2017 - Today, the ACLU of Oregon, joined by the Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and Oregon Lawyers for Good Government, submitted another round of comments to Portland Police Bureau’s directive 635.10 – Crowd Control / Crowd Management. 

These comments continue the call for a more sensible approach to policing protest in an attempt to avoid clashes seen in Portland in recent months

We call for:

1. De-escalation tactics over force;

2. Demilitarization of the police; and,

3. The prohibition of dangerous projectile and chemical weapons.

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Legislation

VICTORY! The Right to Film the Police Bill Passes the Oregon Legislature

The Oregon legislature has made it clear the public has the right to openly record police by passing HB 2704. The bill was signed into law by the governor! 

June 16, 2015 - Victory - Right to Film the Police bill passesBystander video of police encounters can be very powerful, as recent events have shown. We can all agree it should not be a crime to pull out a phone, hold it up, and record an officer who is engaged in misconduct. However, under the current Oregon law, it is a crime to record a conversation without "specifically informing" the parties to the conversation. The problem is obvious — it may not always be safe or reasonable to provide a warning; for example, when the officer is engaged in misconduct or if the officer is dealing with a dangerous situation. Now that it has been signed into law, the right to openly record police is protected in Oregon.

Over 1,700 ACLU supporters took action on this issue by contacting their legislators in Salem. Together, our voices were heard! Thank you to everyone who took a stand for the right to film police in Oregon.

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PRIVACY: Prohibit Unwarranted Access to Electronic Communications and Location Information (SB 640)

Electronic communication – through email, cell phones and social media – has increasingly eclipsed postal mail and other hard-copy methods as our primary means of communication. Unfortunately, some government agencies interpret our outdated privacy laws to allow them to intercept and access a treasure trove of information about who you are, where you go, and what you do – the information being collected by search engines, social networking sites, and other websites every day.

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Other

Letter to Mayor Wheeler Regarding the Portland Police Bureau Response to the May Day Protest

May 10, 2017 - Today, the ACLU of Oregon, the National Lawyers Guild Portland Chapter, and Oregon Lawyers for Good Government sent a letter to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler expressing deep concern over the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) response to the permitted march on May Day.

Our organizations advocate for peaceful protest and call for an end to violence from protesters and PPB alike.

PPB’s response to the May Day protest was disproportionate and dangerous. First-hand accounts from our legal observers and march organizers make it clear that there was very little violence or property destruction prior to the cancellation of the permit. Instead of handling the limited and isolated incidents appropriately, PPB created chaos by canceling a permitted march in progress without communicating to the participants, many of whom were families, children, and people with mobility issues.

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ACLU Report Reveals Oregon Cities and Counties Target Homeless

Proposed “Right to Rest” Legislation Addresses Overcriminalization, Extends Privacy Rights to Oregon’s Homeless

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 5, 2017

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