Police officer will work part time for regional group

The Lake Oswego City Council has agreed to share one of the city’s police officers with the Portland FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The vote was unanimous April 16. There was no discussion of whether to join the regional law enforcement group, although one citizen testified against the proposal.

The terrorism task force aims to leverage participating agencies’ resources to prevent, pre-empt, deter and investigate acts of terrorism and to apprehend individuals who might commit such acts, according to Lake Oswego Police Chief Don Johnson.

Johnson recently said joining the group would provide the city with better access to regional information of interest and an opportunity for enhanced training.

“The real upside for us is the experience that’s gained in participating at a higher level in investigations that at some point could have direct impact on the Portland metro area and, for certain, would have impact on the state of Oregon,” he said.

One of the LOPD’s four regular detectives will dedicate 16 hours, or about two standard work days, each month to the joint task force, with that portion of the workload redistributed among other officers.

Lake Oswego will also benefit from building a stronger relationship with the FBI, which sometimes lends its expertise on local investigations, Johnson said.

“Having access to regional information, enhanced training and just having a relationship with the FBI is really helpful to us,” he said. “It plays into all kinds of investigations in which we might need their expertise.”

At the council meeting, Susan Leedham of Bay Point Drive, co-president of the Japanese American Citizens League’s Portland chapter, urged city leaders to exercise caution in signing the agreement with the FBI.

Especially following a tragic incident such as the bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon, she said, it’s “even more important to consider our actions and not react too hastily out of fear.”

Leedham said councilors and the mayor lacked the security clearance necessary to provide proper oversight and to ensure Lake Oswego isn’t involved in activities that compromise Oregonians’ rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon also posted a copy of a letter to the council on its website urging officials to seek more information about the agreement before approving it.

“I want to emphasize that the ACLU of Oregon does not object to efforts to improve communication and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, including cooperation with the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies,” wrote David Fidanque, executive director of ACLU of Oregon, adding later that “the FBI and other federal agencies operate under very different laws and policies than state and local police agencies are required to follow here in Oregon.”

He said the agreement “makes it extremely likely that local police officers, once deputized as members of the FBI JTTF, will engage in activities that violate the important protections and safeguards of Oregon law and the Oregon Constitution.”

The FBI established the Portland Division’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in 1997, according to its website. The group expanded in size and scope after 9/11, shifting focus from domestic terrorism to international terrorism. A range of public agencies provide part-time liaisons to the task force’s counterterrorism working groups. Those agencies include the Beaverton, Gladstone, Milwaukie and Tigard police departments, the Clackamas and Multnomah county sheriff’s offices, the state and federal justice departments, defense intelligence agency and Oregon National Guard, among others.

While the Portland City Council once withdrew the city’s police bureau from the task force, for the past couple of years it has allowed cooperation on individual terrorism investigations. Regular briefings are required by Portland to satisfy concerns about whether the task force’s investigations could violate state civil rights laws.

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