April 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.”
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.
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.