ACLU Lawsuit Increases Transparency in Police Use of Force Inquiries
September 15, 2016 – The Oregon Supreme Court ruled today that the City of Eugene must turn over records to the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon in their inquiry into the high profile use of force against Eugene protester Ian Van Ornum. In 2008, Van Ornum was twice tased while peacefully protesting against the use of pesticides in downtown Eugene.
The City of Eugene relied on an exemption to the public records law to deny the release of documents in the case.
In the unanimous decision, the court said that the public has strong interest in police oversight.
“Without mutual trust, the police cannot do their work effectively and the public cannot feel safe,” wrote Oregon Supreme Court Justice Martha Walters. “One way to promote that necessary mutual trust is to make police practices and procedures transparent and to make complaints about police misconduct and the discipline that is or is not meted out open to public inspection.”
The decision reinforces the strong public interest in disclosure of information about the use of force by officers, alleged police misconduct, and the process by which those allegations are reviewed.
Oregon law says that when an investigation does not result in discipline of any public safety officer then the records will not be released except “when the public interest requires disclosure of the information.”
With this decision, the court places significant value in the public interest exceptions in Oregon’s public records laws. This will be very important in future public records requests, particularly requests that relate to video captured by police body cameras or dashboard cameras on patrol cars.
Kimberly McCullough, ACLU of Oregon’s legislative director, said the case was a very significant win for Oregonians.
“Today is a big day for police accountability in Oregon,” said McCullough. “In this time of national concern regarding what is appropriate police conduct, we are proud that Oregon’s answer is now to shed more light on the review process.”
April 18, 2016 - Attorneys on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a friend of the court brief in the trial of Teressa Raiford in support of her free speech rights. In August 2015, Teressa Raiford was arrested and booked on charges of disorderly conduct stemming from a protest in Portland that marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown. The brief urges the court to consider the legislative intent behind the disorderly conduct statute.
Jacksonville Protesters’ Case Moves Forward After a Disappointing Supreme Court Ruling
November 30, 2015 - A group of protesters in southern Oregon, who are suing local police for excessive force and unlawful arrest, have been granted class action status for some of the claims in their lawsuit. The protesters, who in 2004 were ordered to leave an area where then-president George W. Bush was having dinner in Jacksonville, Oregon, have fought for years to have their claims heard in court.
In October 2004, U.S. Secret Service agents directed state and local police in Jacksonville to move an anti-Bush picket line of more than 250 peaceful demonstrators while allowing a group of pro-Bush demonstrators to remain in the same area undisturbed. The police effort turned violent as the officers clad in riot gear used batons, "less-lethal" munitions, and chemical agents to move the multigenerational group of anti-Bush demonstrators. The ACLU of Oregon filed a federal lawsuit against the Secret Service as well as state and local police agencies, and the individual agents and officers, seeking damages and an injunction against such governmental abuse in the future.
“The police took things too far when they pushed protesters and used pepper spray and batons on the group that included families with young children,” said Steven Wilker, a lawyer with the Portland-based Tonkon Torp law firm who represents the protestors pro bono on behalf of the ACLU of Oregon.
The protesters have yet to have their case heard in court because the Secret Service, claiming qualified immunity, moved to have the case against them dismissed.
Police Violated Free Speech and Free Press Rights During Unlawful Search and Detention of Livestreamer
February 11, 2015 - Carrie Medina firmly believes that police should always act as they would if they knew there was a camera on them. She made it a point to film police encounters she witnessed.
In February 2013, while riding the bus home from work, she heard someone exclaim, “Ooh, that must’ve hurt!” and looked outside to see two police officers arresting a young man. She got off the bus to observe the police activity and started a livestream video with her phone. Watch the video.
Medina was no stranger to livestreaming. She got her start during the Occupy Portland protests and had soon gathered a group of dedicated viewers. With donations from her supporters to help cover expenses, she had also traveled to protests in D.C. and Chicago to livestream video.
“Livestreamers” have played an important role in recent protests both by attracting large audiences in real time and also by capturing moments that can go “viral” afterwards. For example, over 750,000 viewers tuned in live to see the violent eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protestors. And recently in Ferguson, Missouri, livestreaming journalists shared video of the militarized police response toward protestors that shocked the nation.
By the time Carrie Medina was off the bus and in place to video, the young man being arrested was already in handcuffs. She stood several yards away broadcasting and narrating the events. She started to feel that the police were paying her a lot of attention and she backed even further away. That’s when Officer Letsis walked up to her and asked to see her video.
November 7, 2012 - Nearly three years to the day after he was arrested in Old Town in downtown Portland for refusing to consent to a Portland police officer’s request to search him without probable cause, Jose Gasque received justice in a Multnomah County courtroom.
June 22, 2006 - The American Civil Liberties Union, today, in a letter from the Southern Oregon Chapter of the ACLU of Oregon, told Ashland Mayor John Morrison and the City Council that it had “grave concerns about the Ashland Police Department’s development and uses of a ‘Watch List’ of 24 downtown persons regarded as ‘nuisances,’” and about the Department distributing the list to the Chamber of Commerce.