Portland City Council to withdraw from Joint Terrorism Task Force

Portland City Hall. (KATU Photo)

The Portland City Council voted Wednesday afternoon to withdraw from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

The resolution will take effect in 90 days.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty submitted the ordinance to withdraw from the JTTF as a priority in her successful campaign for city commissioner last November.

In Wednesday's vote, Commissioners Hardesty, Amanda Fritz, and Chloe Eudaly voted for the resolution, while Commissioner Nick Fish and Mayor Ted Wheeler were opposed.

Hardesty said she believes cooperation with federal investigations doesn't match with Portland's sanctuary policies, which are aimed at protecting civil rights and a state ban on using local resources to enforce federal law.

"I think us being at the table as part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force does not match with our focus being a sanctuary city," Hardesty said.

Later, she added, "I reject the notion that this vote is rushed since we rejoined in 2015, we have been working non-stop since then. This is not a new issue for communities."

Mayor Wheeler wanted to stay in, saying he fears the city will be left out of information if it leaves.

The mayor and Commissioner Fish submitted an alternative resolution to stay in the JTTF and require more detailed reporting to the city on activities and the Portland Police Bureau's participation in it.

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly didn't take a stand on withdrawing from the JTTF before becoming the deciding voice in Wednesday afternoon's vote.

"I'm not convinced there are adequate conditions to ensure Portland Police Bureau officers will be walled off from this component of the JTTF's activities, and without meaningful civilian oversight, I'm not confident we could ever confirm this," Eudaly said.

Portland FBI Agent In Charge Renn Cannon tells KATU News that having Portland Police on the JTTF adds insight federal officials don't have on people with mental issues who may - or may not - be a community threat.

"They provide really good capabilities that we just don’t have in the federal system to assess mental health, and to access the cop on patrol who might have familiarity with individuals," said Cannon.

Federal officials say if Portland was on the Joint Terrorism Task Force in 2010, it could have moved more quickly in the investigation into a bomb plot at Pioneer Courthouse Square that led to the arrest and conviction of Mohamed Mohamud.

However, Beaverton lawyer Brandon Mayfield was also wrongly accused during an FBI investigation into a 2004 terror bombing in France.

"You can't say you're prepared to take a stand to protect our city and state immigrants and ethnic and religious minorities and at the same time offer city and state resources to organizations like the JTTF that targets them," Mayfield said.

Police Chief Danielle Outlaw tweeted a video Monday in support of the JTTF agreement, saying in part, “We also need to be vigilant about real threats and the fact that there are people intent on harming our community.”

Watch the City Council's Recording:

Below is the full statement from Cannon:

The FBI's mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution. With the withdrawal of the city of Portland from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, that mission doesn't change.

The agents, analysts, language specialists, legal experts and other professional staff of the FBI who work every day to keep our community safe will continue to do so, addressing threats of violence and criminal activity that impact our neighborhoods. To this end, the FBI will continue to partner formally with other members of the JTTF as well as informally with cities and counties across the state to share information and address threats as appropriate.

Robust discussions about law enforcement's role in our society are valuable. Recognizing the fears that exist in the community, we will continue to visit with community leaders and work together to keep Oregon safe while addressing those factors that can drive a wedge between us.

I want the people of Oregon to know that the men and women of the FBI do their work with the utmost respect for and adherence to our shared Constitutional protections that allow us to speak, gather and worship freely no matter who we are or where we come from. I thank them for the work they do every day, and I thank the Portland Police officers who have joined us the past few years for their work in keeping our shared community safe.

-- Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon

Read Commissioner Hardesty's release about the vote below:

Today, Portland City Council voted 3 to 2 to withdraw from the City’s relationship with the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

Pursuing a withdraw from the JTTF was one of the prominent campaign promises offered by City Council Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.

Commissioner Hardesty addressed a rally outside of City Hall prior to the City Council session. In front of the crowd, she spoke of her desire to fulfill her agenda of “One Portland.” One Portland means that everyone’s needs, especially those who have been traditionally marginalized, get equal treatment. Commissioner Hardesty believes that withdraw from the JTTF is an important part of making sure those who feel voiceless and unprotected are re-centered in our policy creation.

One-by-one, community members testified in front of City Council about their strong desire to withdraw from the JTTF.

When Commissioner Hardesty voted, she said “I reject the notion that this vote is rushedsince we rejoined in 2015, we have been working non-stop since then. This is not a new issue for communities.”

Commissioner Hardesty added: “We are here today because I am about keeping promises. When I said that I would bring this up as early as possible, this is why we are here today.”

And finally:

“This is a thoughtful process that centers all members of our community. When we talk about One Portland, a Portland where everyone is respected, we cannot in good conscious continue our engagement with the Joint Terrorism Task Force. I am proud to vote yes for this resolution and I thank you for being here.”

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