PPB provided no guidance for officers about what information they could collect during 2020 protests

ByMabel R. Acton

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – A new report released Wednesday is shedding light on Portland police officers’ handling of the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd were held in Portland in the summer and fall of 2020. Police encountered protestors exercising their right to free speech and others who damaged property.

How officers enforced the law while trying to protect people and their rights came under review by the city, and that audit was just released.

The audit specifically looked at how officers gathered intelligence and conducted criminal investigations in a way that protected the privacy and civil liberties. It found the Portland Police Bureau didn’t give any real guidance for officers.

The auditors reviewed a sample of 40 police reports related to the protests and 33 criminal intelligence reports, and found no real policies and procedures to guide how officers went about using surveillance technology and how they used social media posts without direction or knowing appropriate use – that led officers to use their own discretion on what type of information they obtain and keep.

File image from May 2020
File image from May 2020(KPTV)

There was also community concerns that a police plane monitoring the protests could identify people and collect information, but auditors found the aerial technology wasn’t capable of capturing clear enough footage and images of people or cars to do that, or pickup cell phone data.

The report made five recommendations:

  • Adopt a directive related to investigating First Amendment activity that provides guidance for the appropriate collection of information to protect people’s civil rights.
  • Create a procedure that limits access to sensitive information and promotes compliance with state law about collecting and maintaining political, religious, and social information that is not associated with criminal activity.
  • Adopt a technology directive that includes council authorization of surveillance technology, advice from a privacy commission, and requirements for policies and reporting.
  • Add to the social media directive guidance for its use for investigations and a requirement to document the law enforcement purpose for searching individuals and groups.
  • Make public reports on the bureau’s use of surveillance technology to ease the public’s concerns about inappropriate intelligence-gathering and how devices are managed to prevent it.

At the end of the audit report is a copy of a letter from Mayor Ted Wheeler saying, in part: “My team and I will work with PPB to enact all five of audit recommendations, four in full and one in part.”

Mayor Wheeler did not specify which recommendation would only be partly enacted.

A letter from Police Chief Chuck Lovell was also provided in the audit. In it, Lovell said “the Portland Police Bureau is in the process of implementing several of the recommendations provided.”

To view the full audit report, click here.