"Oregon has a long, well documented history of racism that is reflected in public policy. These policies and over 150 years of practices are a root cause of the persistent economic, political, social and health disparities facing Oregon’s communities of color."
- Facing Race Report, 2015
Oregon cannot afford the high cost of law enforcement profiling. Profiling is a first point of entry into a biased justice system that has generated mass incarceration. It not only creates persistent stress and impacts the well-being of individuals and their families, but it also promotes poor policing practices, diverts resources, destroys trust between law enforcement and the people they are meant to protect, and ultimately creates further economic and social instability in our communities.
Transforming Oregon’s approach to community safety requires dismantling patterns and practices of profiling in law enforcement. This means enacting a comprehensive strategy that includes high level community oversight and transparency, consistent data collection, improved and expanded training, robust accountability mechanisms, and long-term investment.
In 2015, after a multi-year campaign, Unite Oregon and our partners won passage of a landmark bill banning profiling by law enforcement in Oregon (HB 2002, the End Profiling Act). Subsequently, the Oregon Attorney General established the Work Group on the Prevention of Profiling by Law Enforcement, a task force charged with recommendations for implementation. As a member of this task force and a leader on the issue, Unite Oregon is poised lay the groundwork for organizing around upcoming legislation in 2017, particularly with regards to two recommendations that are pivotal to the success of the profiling ban: (1) robust collection of data on police stops, complaints, and complaint outcomes, and (2) development of an accountability structure that empowers the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Department of Justice to examine the data for patterns or practices of profiling and push for remediation by local law enforcement bodies.
In the coming year, Unite Oregon will organize field listening sessions, build the base in key regions of the state, train new leaders, and deliver local workshops and distribute a toolkit about the new profiling ban to educate communities about the new complaint system and encourage people to report incidents of profiling.
Portland Out of the Joint Terrorism Task Force
Before 2005, the City of Portland was an active participant in the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), collaborations between local law enforcement, the FBI, ICE, and other federal law enforcement agencies. Joint Terrorism Task Forces were created to investigate "terrorism," but in practice have been used to crack down on people exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech or religion. Instead of preventing terrorism, the task forces are instead used to surveil and harass Muslims, people of color and others who speak out against government policies.
In 2005, Portland became the first city in the US to withdraw from participation in our local JTTF, thanks to the hard work of activists and organizations like Unite Oregon. Unfortunately, in 2015, Portland City Council voted to rejoin the Task Force, assigning Portland Police officers to work with the FBI and ICE on a full-time basis. But the fundamental issues in this debate never changed.
Participation in the JTTF violates the chain of command in Portland by preventing the Police Chief, Police Commissioner, and City Attorney from having any meaningful role in directing officers' work. There is little to no public oversight of the Task Force's actions, and we are asked to simply take on faith that participating agencies are complying with state law - with no way to confirm that they are accountable to the public they are supposed to serve. And remaining in the JTTF sends a chilling message to already-vulnerable communities that the Portland Police Bureau is merely an arm of Donald Trump's federal law enforcement apparatus, harming community trust at a time when it is already low.
In early 2019, Unite Oregon and our partners worked with Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty to, once again, withdraw Portland from the JTTF. And on February 13th, Portland City Council voted to do just that. Now that the City has voted to withdraw from the JTTF, we'll be tracking how that withdrawal is implemented, and ensure that Portland remains OUT of the JTTF!
Unite Oregon is partnering with Enlace on the nationwide private prison divestment campaign, which targets investors of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group (GEO), the two largest private prison companies in the U.S. Both also run for-profit immigrant detention centers. In response to Unite Oregon’s pressure, the City of Portland’s responsible investment committee recommended divesting from the City’s $40 million in Wells Fargo corporate bonds as the bank is a major investor in private prisons. Unite Oregon will ensure this decision is ratified by the City Commission, and will continue to elevate private prison issues, including preferential tax treatment for private prisons, to the national level given U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s position as Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee.
Unite Oregon is leading a robust parent organizing program – engaging parents of middle- and high school-aged kids of 3,000 Portland-area families – with ties to school climate and school to prison pipeline issues. Over the next two years, Unite Oregon will mobilize parents around the issues of disparate discipline, graduation rates, and enrollment balancing (e.g., crowding, student-to-teacher ratio, etc.).