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.
Based on information contained in APD Sergeant Teresa Selby’s discussion of the list in a May 10, 2006, memorandum, the ACLU letter questions the creation of the list. The list is troubling, says the ACLU letter, because “there is no serious crime involved.” The ACLU further questions whether any objective criteria were used in creating the list, and if any due process procedures exist to challenge a listing.
The ACLU criticizes the Department’s focus on people panhandling and hanging around downtown, which the ACLU reminds the City are not crimes, noting that panhandling is “a constitutionally protected form of free speech and free expression.” The ACLU letter also says that the Department’s “apparent collaboration” on the list with the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, and exclusion of “a cross-section of the community, including the ACLU,” undermines public trust.
The ACLU letter requests the City Government to (1) make full and public disclosure of all the relevant facts and documents concerning the list; (2) conduct a City Council public hearing on the matter; and (3) suspend all uses and “sweeps” based on the list, including a sweep which Sgt. Selby’s memo states is planned for November 23rd, until such disclosures and public hearing have taken place.