Internal DOJ Report Leaves Us with More Questions than Answers on the Surveillance of Black Lives Matter in Oregon

By David Rogers, Executive Director

David Rogers photoApril 12, 2016 - Yesterday a report on the surveillance of Black Lives Matter in Oregon was released by the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ). The report confirmed what we learned back in November: that an agent who works for the Criminal Division of DOJ was testing a surveillance program, called Digital Stakeout, by searching various key words, including #BlackLivesMatter. The agent then mistook posts from DOJ’s own Director of Civil Rights, including a post of a Public Enemy logo and political cartoons, as a threat to law enforcement and wrote a memo that was passed all the way up the chain of command to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum before it was, finally, rejected as dangerous, racial profiling. The Attorney General hired an outside attorney to conduct an independent investigation of the matter to determine if policies or laws were violated.

After reading through the report and looking through the exhibits, we are left with more questions than answers. I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the lack of awareness that was revealed of both the law and of what might constitute a threat. This is not only shameful, but also dangerous. Given the power that they wield, I am dismayed at the state of the Criminal Justice Division and afraid for the Oregonians that are supposed to be protected by them. Self-reinforced bias, against protesters, black people, and who knows who else, has left the agency ill-equipped to do their job.


Damning Report Reveals Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Multnomah County’s Criminal Justice System

February 11, 2016 - A new report reveals people of color are negatively impacted in greater numbers than whites at every stage of the criminal justice system in Multnomah County. The county's Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) report shows the disparity is greatest for black people. 

The report reveals that black people are 320% more likely than whites to have their crimes accepted for prosecution, 500% more likely to spend time in jail, and 600% more likely to be sentenced to prison.  

While we aren’t surprised to see this evidence of racism in our criminal justice system, we are disappointed. It looks like people are being punished in Multnomah County for being black.

Communities of color deserve a system that is fair, just, and unbiased. The data shows this problem is not isolated to one or two areas but is systemic. Over the years we have seen data related to specific aspects of the criminal justice system (such as traffic stops and drug exclusion zones) that also confirm that racial disparities exist in Portland and Multnomah County.  

Yet there has been little or no institutional curiosity to find out why these stark disparities exist.  


Records Requests Filed Regarding DOJ Surveillance of Black Lives Matter

By Mat dos Santos, Legal Director 
Black Lives Matter protestorNovember 13, 2015 – Yesterday, the ACLU of Oregon filed records requests to the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ), Oregon’s Titan Fusion Center, and the United States Department of Justice, including the FBI. We are seeking information regarding the extent of the DOJ's surveillance including questions about the technology that was used, what information was collected, and who was profiled by the department.

In an interview with OPB this week, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum confirmed that a DOJ investigator used an online, subscription-based tool called “Digital Stakeout.” The Digital Stakeout website touts its product as a threat intelligence platform and says users can “search by keyword, hashtag, location, meta-data and more.” Rosenblum revealed that in addition to searching for Black Lives Matter, other searches were performed, including searches for the hashtag, ‘F - the police.’

As these statements reveal, this was more than just a search of hashtags on the internet. We have some preliminary answers, but we also have many more questions. Why was a Black-led social movement used as a jumping-off point for ‘anti-police sentiment’? How did the investigation of the DOJ’s own Civil Rights Division director go so far? Who else was swept up in this dragnet?


Letter to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum Regarding Surveillance of #BlackLivesMatter

November 10, 2015

Attorney General Rosenblum:

We, the undersigned, have been notified that the Oregon Department of Justice has conducted digital surveillance on Oregonians because of their use of the Black Lives Matter hashtag on social media.


ACLU Releases Online Guide for Reporting Police Misconduct

“How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon” compiles statewide information

August 7, 2015 - Just ahead of the anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown, the ACLU of Oregon announced the publication of “How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon,"  an online resource for reporting police misconduct. The guide includes information on how to file a complaint with law enforcement agencies across the state.

“Reporting police misconduct is an important step for increased police accountability,” said Legislative Director Kimberly McCullough. “People may worry that filing a report will not make a difference, but complaints of police misconduct can reveal patterns of problematic behaviors and practices, making them harder to ignore.”

McCullough added that, while it is not required, people may want to consult with an attorney before submitting a complaint as it could affect future legal proceedings.

Most of Oregon’s law enforcement agencies have complaint procedures in place; however, there is no standardized way in which that information is made available to the public. While compiling the information for the guide, we found it often required multiple phone calls to law enforcement agencies in order to find out their procedures. The lack of a straightforward complaint process can be discouraging to complainants.


How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon

This page has instructions for filing a police complaint. CLICK HERE IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO FILE A LEGAL REQUEST WITH THE ACLU OF OREGON


Reporting police misconduct is an important step that can lead to better police accountability. However, some people who feel they were mistreated or had their rights violated do not file complaints. Often it is because they don’t know how to do it, they think it won’t make a difference, or they are afraid of retaliation.

Even though an individual complaint may not result in any changes, over time, complaints can add up and show patterns of problematic behaviors and practices.

While most law enforcement agencies in Oregon have a complaint procedure, it is not always easy to figure out how to file a complaint or where to file it. To help make the complaint process clearer, we have created the “How to File a Police Complaint in Oregon” resource.


ACLU Launches Police Watch App in Oregon

“Mobile Justice” app allows Oregonians to record video of police encounters, includes guide to rights
November 6, 2014 – The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon today announced the release of a smartphone application that will allow users to take video of police encounters and quickly upload the video to the ACLU. It can also send an alert when a police stop is being recorded by another user nearby and provides helpful legal information about interacting with police.

“Police officers have a unique role and position within our society and they are given extraordinary powers,” said David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Oregonians have the right to record video of police in public places as a check to those powers.”

Fidanque said that the app, known as “Mobile Justice,” is also being launched simultaneously by ACLU affiliates in Missouri, Mississippi, and Nebraska.  He said it is intended for use by people witnessing a police encounter, not by individuals who are the subject of a police stop. 


Marijuana Arrests and Citations on the Rise in Oregon

June 5, 2013 - A report issued this week by the National ACLU, based on state crime reports provided to the FBI, shows that Oregon law enforcement agencies increased the rate of citations and arrests for possession of marijuana by 45% between 2001 and 2010. Oregon’s increase was the fifth highest in the country during that period. Nationwide, African-Americans were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than Whites despite comparable usage rates.

Analysis by the ACLU of Oregon of data made available by the Oregon State Police, shows that 90% of the marijuana possession incidents in 2010 involved less than 1 ounce of marijuana, which is punishable as a violation under state law and does not lead to arrest or jail time. That same data shows that Lane County reported the highest number of marijuana enforcement actions in 2010 with 16.7% of all marijuana possession citations and arrests statewide. Jackson County was second with 13.2%, Multnomah County was third with 8.32%, and Marion County was fourth with 7.0% of the statewide total for marijuana possession citations and arrests.


Civil Rights & Education Advocates Applaud State Department of Education Website Disclosing Suspension and Expulsion Data of Students of Color

June 18, 2012 – Five civil rights and education reform organizations today applauded the launch of a new website created by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) making disciplinary data in school districts across the state more accessible to the public and say it is an important step towards reducing the disproportionate discipline of students of color in Oregon public schools.

The launch of the state database came at the request of the organizations after the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon released its report on the School to Prison Pipeline in Oregon in 2010. That report highlighted dramatic disparities in disciplinary action for students of color compared to their white counterparts, as well as increased contact with the juvenile justice system.


ACLU Supports Ban on Native American Mascots

May 18, 2012 - The Oregon State Board of Education approved a ban on the use of Native American mascots. Schools have until 2017 to comply or risk losing state funding. Last month, the ACLU of Oregon sent a letter to the board in support of the proposed ban stating that "stereotyping by our public institutions is damaging to all of our communities."


Oregon Department of Education Agrees to Release Discipline Data

April 27, 2011 – The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has agreed to annually release student discipline data, broken out by race, starting in 2012.


ACLU REPORT: Oregon’s School-to-Prison Pipeline

NOTE: A year after publishing our 2010 report on the School-to-Prison Pipeline, we learned that the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) had provided us with inaccurate data for one aspect of the report involving the number of students removed from classrooms and referred to Alternative Education Settings. The data they labeled as “Removals” was actually “Truancy” data. We had made all efforts possible prior to publication to ensure the accuracy of our report, including providing a final draft of the report to ODE staff members in order to double-check our findings. At the time, we were assured that all of the data was accurate. We very much regret the error. As a result, please disregard the text, graph and table related to the Removal to Alternative Education Settings which appear on Page 3 of our 2010 report.

October 19, 2010 – Students have been back in Oregon classrooms for more than a month, but the anxiety of the beginning of the school year is not over for many students of color and their families.  A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon shows that African American, Latino and Native American students are subjected to harsher discipline than their white peers in Oregon.


ACLU Seeks Records About FBI Collection of Racial and Ethnic Data In Oregon

FBI's Claimed Authority to Track and Map "Behaviors" and "Lifestyle Characteristics" of American Communities Invites Racial Profiling

July 27, 2010 - The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon has asked the Portland FBI field office to turn over records related to the agency's collection and use of race and ethnicity data in local communities.