Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum publicly apologized Tuesday to an employee at the Oregon Department of Justice who was profiled.
Last week, Rosenblum confirmed that the agency’s own Director of Civil Rights Erious Johnson had been surveilled by at least one member of the DOJ’s Criminal Division. The surveillance came as part of an assessment of possible threats against law enforcement.
The DOJ investigator used an online program to search for use of the hashtag “Black Lives Matter” and others in the Salem area, where Johnson lives.
The incident comes as Rosenblum is chairing a task force on profiling by law enforcement. A new law passed earlier this year makes profiling illegal.
She started Tuesday’s meeting in Salem by addressing what happened within her own agency.
“No employee of the Oregon Department of Justice or any other organization should be targeted or profiled in this way,” she said.
Turning to Johnson, Rosenblum continued, “and Erious, I’m very sorry that this happened.”
“I accept your apology,” Johnson said.
“We’re gonna get to the bottom of this,” Rosenblum said.
“Cool,” Johnson said.
Rosenblum said she learned about the profiling “several weeks ago” and immediately shut down the practice. She said she told Johnson directly and also wanted to hear his thoughts on next steps she should take.
“This, in my view, is exactly what our profiling laws are meant to prevent,” Rosenblum said. “‘Black Lives Matter’ is a social and political movement protected by the First Amendment. Association with ‘Black Lives Matter’ does not create violence and it does not deserve intrusion by the state.”
Rosenblum also addressed those who may think profiling doesn’t happen.
“Profiling is real,” Rosenblum said. “It’s happening now and the effects of it are toxic.”
The head of the Urban League of Portland — who is married to Johnson — has called for a criminal investigation into the incident.
The DOJ investigator who conducted the surveillance has been put on leave.
Rosenblum has started an internal investigation headed by a third-party special prosecutor, Carolyn Walker of the law firm Stoel Rives. Records obtained by OPB show it could cost up to $88,000.