Now Playing: Portland Copwatch Talks to The MAyor and City Council 9.17.14
My Testimony September 17, 2014
Hello Mayor and City Council,
I’m a member of Portland Copwatch that wanted to sit down and meet with you about concerns our group had regarding filming by the police. I’m now using this time to speak to you because our group was not able to get a meeting with you without getting by Officer Wesson Mitchell's conflicts of interest. Her position on the issues we've raised comes off as defensive of Bureau behavior and policies. We feel this is not helpful for someone who should be listening to community concerns and figuring out how to implement change, rather than helping perpetuate the status quo.
We are concerned about the police filming residents of Portland. We have seen over and over the Police filming people at public gatherings and protests. When asked “why they are filming” or “what are they doing with the film footage”, the police usually reply “we are using it for training purposes and to ask the City Attorney for more information”. We know that ORS 181.575 states the police are not to be filming, spying on or recording citizens, religious organizations or political groups. And we are concerned that the police are continuing to film and collect this video footage to this day. We have written about this concern repeatedly.
This concern of filming by the police takes me to my next point about the use of lapel cameras that are to be worn by police. I’m speaking of the body worn camera by an officer while on duty. Because, for example, there is not enough information on what is happening with the camera data, and the use and storage of the video footage that is collected, and whether it will be viewed with transparent oversight, we at Portland Copwatch are not able support the police filming the residents of Portland using these cameras.
There has been only one public study made so far on this type of camera worn by police and the information doesn’t prove it makes police behavior any better or safer. It was paid for in part by the cameras' manufacturer, who stands to make money from good press. Many people are saying that police worn cameras can stop police abuse and misconduct, but we don’t know if that is true or if it even changes police conduct.
We do encourage people to film the police, and in fact we offer trainings to the public on “how to film the police” and what a person's rights are, but it’s our opinion that having the “police film citizens” with body worn cameras is potentially illegal.
There needs to be more conversation with the public, oversight committees and organizations on what this type of filming does to our privacy, and how the recordings will be stored and accessed. Will the acquired footage be used for spying, tracing, investigating or data mined for information? We have no assurance the police will use the footage for accountability purposes. We do not know how or who will be reviewing the video tapes and how it will relate to discipline or to correcting bad behavior. We are concerned the footage will be used as a dragnet to hunt for evidence to prosecute people. We are concerned it could be used in assisting investigations that are not warranted nor would be allowed under the purview of legitimate police business. It seems the City already made up its mind to get these cameras, but these questions need to be discussed with residents who need to feel safe and secure in their rights to privacy and not to incriminate themselves. In conclusion, the police should not film the citizens of Portland by any type of camera without at least reasonable suspicion of criminal activity as called for in ORS 181.575.
Our reason for meeting with the mayor in this manner can be expained by this article from our portland copwatch website. http://portlandcopwatch.org/mayormeeting2014.html