The Portland City Council will vote Feb. 13 on a resolution to withdraw from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
New Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty promised to put the issue to a vote during her 2018 campaign.
Hardesty says she recently met with officials from the FBI to learn more about the work of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a partnership between FBI agents and local law enforcement officers.
Hardesty says nothing she heard in that meeting convinced her to change her position that the city should pull its police officers out.
“What I felt is that they are still a very top secret organization that really does not share information with folks about what they are involved in and why,” she said.
Portland’s vote will follow a move in 2017 by San Francisco to withdraw its officers from the JTTF there. Portland withdrew from the JTTF under Mayor Tom Potter, a former Portland police chief, and then rejoined in 2015.
Hardesty says the ordinance she plans to introduce will be limited to the question of whether the city should remain involved in the task force.
“I started with a set of very complex recommendations, and I am now leaning towards a very clean ordinance that just stays we’re pulling out,” she said. “We will come back with directives for how we will continue to work with the FBI and homeland security as needed.”
The decision to stay or leave will be a close vote. Commissioner Amanda Fritz has consistently opposed participating in the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Mayor Ted Wheeler has said he prefers to stay involved.
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, the likely swing vote, says she has yet to land on a specific position. Eudaly has said she is weighing concerns about Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s role in the group against the advocacy of some Muslim community leaders who favor staying in the task force.
Civil liberties advocates have long worried that the FBI’s practice of placing people deemed a potential risk under surveillance in some cases amounts to profiling people on the basis of their political beliefs, religion, race or nationality.
The FBI says the JTTF focuses on threats of violence and not on particular religious, racial or political groups. Federal officials also say they investigate hundreds of threats each year in Oregon, though most do not turn out to be related to terrorism.
Recent investigations the FBI has said the JTTF is involved in include the case of a disabled homeless man who violently threatened Mayor Wheeler in a comment on Instagram and the fatal stabbing of two men on a TriMet train in 2017.