Portland Police violated ACLU contract during protests live broadcast last summer, judge says



Portland police violated a contract with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon by live streaming video of the protests last summer, a judge ruled on Monday.

Protester who sued town for the live broadcast suffered “real and probable” injuries as a result of her “image being broadcast to the world,” Multnomah County Judge Thomas M. Ryan said in court .

Although the police bureau did not “retain” the streaming footage, its actions still violated state law and a long-standing agreement that the police do not “collect or retain information about the opinions, associations or political, religious or social activities of any individual, group, association, organization, society, business or partnership â€, unless the information is directly related to a crime or a criminal investigation, the judge found.

Ryan’s decision from the bench follows a temporary restraining order granted in July 2020 in the same case that banned Portland Police collect or maintain video or audio recordings of protesters in public areas except as part of a criminal investigation.

The restraining order was the result of a lawsuit filed the day before by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, challenging the live broadcast of the protests by the Portland Police Department.

The judge went further on Monday, ruling that even Portland police were internally using live video of protests that are not being made public violates the law and the city’s agreement with the ACLU.

“We are of course very pleased with the decision, which reflects the ability of the law to keep pace with the evolution of technology,” said Ed Piper, an attorney who represented the ACLU and protester No. 1, the anonymous plaintiff in court.

Anticipating an immediate appeal from the city, the judge suspended his ruling over the police’s internal use of live broadcasts.

Police incident commanders often rely heavily on live-streamed demonstration videos to help guide officers’ actions, Deputy City Attorney Ryan Bailey told the court. Removing their internal use would be a “significant loss” for the police, he said.

Deputy Chief Chris Davis, who has since left the office for another job, said in an affidavit that police have started publicly sharing live videos to improve “public transparency” regarding police responses to complaints. protests, noting that they often opposed live broadcasts of protesters which were edited. show the actions of the police without provocation of the demonstrators.

“Live broadcasts also seemed to help de-escalate,†Davis wrote in a statement. “Live broadcasts contributed to the de-escalation and deterrence of criminal behavior by offering greater public visibility to such actions. For example, in one case, while PPB was broadcasting live from the Justice Center, with the security fence in place around the building, a group of individuals were attempting to break through the fence. A few minutes after the live broadcast began, the activity stopped and the crowd walked away from the fence. “

The police station live streamed the protests to YouTube on June 6, 7, 9 and 10 last year and posted the video to the office’s Twitter feed. The images were stored by YouTube and made available to the police. After each video was completed, an agent manually deleted the data, depending on the city.

After the livestream of June 10, 2020, the police used another video platform, Wowza Media Systems, which, unlike YouTube, gives the user the option to choose from several settings, such as recording. Police never chose to record on Wowza’s live broadcasts and used Wowza to live stream the protests on July 4, 13, 16, 18, 20 and 30 of last year, according to lawyers for the city.

On July 13, 2020, a live police broadcast captured Protester # 1 peacefully demonstrating outside the Portland Police Union headquarters in North Portland. Protester 1 said he was present from 8:30 p.m. to midnight. In a sworn statement to the court, the protester said she was a relative who attended after being “disgusted and devastated” by acts of police violence against demonstrators in the previous weeks. Protester No.1 walked between a police line and other protesters and stood in front of each officer, the statement said.

Protester No.1 told the court that at no time did she consent to police capturing her image or audio during the protest.

The judge found that the live broadcast violated state law and a 1988 agreement between the city and the ACLU. The deal was negotiated by longtime Portland civil rights attorney Elden Rosenthal and then city attorney Jeffrey L. Rogers.

In 1988, the ACLU had received complaints from two organizations that the Police Bureau photographed public and peaceful protests and kept photographs and related information, including the identities of protesters, in permanent police files even. if no criminal activity had taken place and no crime investigations were underway. Rosenthal and Rogers discussed the matter and came to the negotiated deal.

Under it, the Portland Police Force agreed to incorporate the wording of state law into their policies: “Portland Police Officers shall not collect or retain information on opinions, opinions, political, religious or social associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, society, business or partnership, unless such information is directly related to an investigation of criminal activity, and there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the person concerned is or may be involved in criminal behavior. “

After the ruling, protester # 1 identified herself as Marie Tyvolle and issued a statement: “When I came forward to support Black Lives at a protest, I didn’t expect the police to invest. so much time, money and energy in broadcasting. my face on the internet, â€she said. “Opposing injustice is important to me; having my own government deliberately endangered me for the dissemination of my location and political position – known as “doxxing” – is incredible. At a time when extremists and hate groups violently attack activists, I am grateful that the court has seen how harmful this practice is and has chosen to end it permanently.

Lawyers for the city argued that police do not collect or store the video clips, but only transmit live video and audio over the internet in near real time. They also pointed out that protesters in the crowd frequently broadcast the same protests live.

Regardless of which live streaming platform the police use, all parties to the case agreed that the police office did not record, copy or save the live broadcasts. The city further argued that a 1988 letter between its city lawyer and Rosenthal referring to a negotiated agreement did not amount to a contract.

The judge dismissed a separate complaint from the ACLU, ruling that the organization had no standing in the case “beyond an abstract interest”.

–Maxine Bernstein

Email to [email protected]; 503-221-8212

Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian


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