Surveillance: whose eyes are where?

I ask you to consider copwatchers as documentary filmmakers. Given absolute lack of oversight by local authority, their in-the-field reporting is the only means of assessing paper training directives against actual officer conduct. When copwatchers interview participants, or offer commentary when posting video, they plant themselves squarely in journalists’ traditional role.

Portland, Oregon law enforcement has drawn a stark, blue line: they now seek to suppress a new form of reporting which steps in as corporate media ownership diminishes investigative journalism and concentrates news distribution outlets. ACLU of Oregon initiates #TheyReportToYou, a campaign to raise voter awareness of District Attorneys’ power, and bring attention to the number of uncontested elections for the office. Multnomah DA Rodney D. Underhill responded by handing out legal consequences to door-knocking by inquiring copwatchers.*

Local suppression of community-based police oversight is part of broader, inter-agency collusion.

“Community concerns were recently confirmed,” reported Mike Smith of Film the Police Portland yesterday. According to Smith, Chris Ponte, founder of Cop Block’s Oregon Chapter, was “confronted at his place of work by FBI agents in suits taking him into custody over a legal matter that could’ve easily been taken care of by uniformed Portland police bureau officers.” (Video below.) Smith’s grassroots, volunteer-run organization “denounces this repugnant miss use of a law-enforcement apparatus meant to Combat Terrorism. Chris was later interrogated about photographs that appeared in his Facebook account. So yes, we have the FBI going through local activist Facebook accounts looking for reasons to arrest them with federal warrants.”

More, after yesterday’s 6-minute video.

Smith is a keeper of institutional memory in the civil pursuit of police accountability. He evidences renewed concerns with the Feds’ Joint Terrorism Task Force. (See my post Behind the City’s Terrorism Task Force Stands a TITAN Fusion Center.) He offers warning as two dozen community organizations inspire an active campaign to demand the City of Portland withdraw collusion with the FBI’s domestic surveillance and intervention apparatus.

I call your attention to yesterday’s reporting, on defense attorney Marcus Mumford, against whom US security agents deployed electronic control weaponry during a Federal trial in Portland. “Several defense lawyers, as well as Mumford, surmised that the government suddenly dismissed the criminal charges against him after Mumford’s lawyer asked for all texts and email messages between the marshals during the Bundy trial and likely found “unprofessional and embarrassing communications.””

Agents who tackled and tazed Mumford on 27 October 2016 likely included bad actors Deputy US Marshal Jesse Lindstrom and Federal Inspector Karl Knobbs. Two days prior, and two floors above, in the Mark O. Hatfield US Courthouse, Lindstrom physically intervened upon Roger David Hardesty, as he waited to testify on police union contract renewal, negotiated in back rooms in violation of transparency provisions in a Federal plea deal to reform unconstitutional policing. Knobbs formed part of the team who tackled Hardesty, preventing his subsequent testimony on the corrupt bargain.

Add this puzzle piece.

Portland City Commissioners secured the services of agents Lindstrom, Knobbs and two others when public hearing was held on City property to abrogate that plea deal. (See  Obstruction of Justice, Portland Style.)

Email communications would likely reveal why these same agents were used to suppress testimony in Federal court, and then chill dissent at City Hall in August 2017. Further investigation would no doubt unearth a nexus of law enforcement orchestration at the TITAN Fusion Center, by which the Joint Terrorism Task Force detects ‘threats to policing’ (including reliance on social media surveillance), sets targets, and initiates countermeasures.

Call to action.

Support the ACLU campaign to break City ties with the JTTF. Sign and share their petition.

Protect your copwatchers and police accountability activists. Unlike body-worn cameras, cops do change their conduct when independent observation is directed at them. To make copwatching neighborly, or a civic duty, would be to increase safety among immigrants and communities of color. As a check on police power, known in Portland to be unconstitutional, copwatchers improve justice delivery.

*NOTE: Mainstream journalists knock on doors, set up satellite trucks in streets outside newsmakers’ homes. Copwatchers Uncle Bob & Son of Hightower could have sought comment from Portland Police Bureau’s Public Information Office, but it is unimaginable that serving officers would describe how police policy navigates clandestine, backroom channels. Readers should note that Sgt. Chris Burley, promoted to PIO since employing lethal force in the police homicide of Keaton Otis, now offers ‘no comment’ for PPB. DA Underhill has taken former PPB Officer Cody Berne as a prosecutor. Appointment of Berne, also on-scene and complicit with failed investigation into the Otis killing, puts both police and the community on notice … law-enforcement exoneration of coworkers will continue to premise justice delivery.

Also, look askance at any who introduce the concept of ‘community policing.’ They likely have jobs staked to the approach. DA Underhill’s response, and secrecy surrounding officers’ home addresses, offers fundamental evidence that there is no desire, functionally, to be in community. Even when not outright snitch programs, discussion rarely turns to upending traditional power imbalances. Indicators of community integration into policing include ability to set policy, training and disciplinary outcomes. Top secret effort, as with JTTF, is the antithesis of transparency. Agents have justice advocates under surveillance, while local authority sets police policy by covert means: this might indicate to you that it is wise and timely that such collusion is disassembled.

For further reading, The Politics of Community Policing: Rearranging the Power to Punish. From Lyons (pp. 4-5): “The more democratic forces (subjecting unaccountable forms of power to critical public scrutiny or moderating competing demands) and the more disciplinary powers (to surveil and normalize) both require a degree of transparency and a linked capacity to gather information and construct more or less persuasive stories. When this transparency directs power and information in panoptic fashion, only in the direction of the state, it encourages docility and dependence …”

One thought on “Surveillance: whose eyes are where?

  1. hardspace says:

    City, multiple County, State & Federal collusion.
    Court documents do not describe how an unnamed Portland Police Bureau Detective learned in July 2017 that Ponte was depicted on his Facebook page in a set of posts … from January. An unnamed FBI Special Agent describes a local cop’s search through Oregon’s Law Enforcement Data System, to find a prior conviction in another jurisdiction. The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles complied with – at minimum – request for a photograph. According to a Probation Officer, Ponte is to have successfully completed 14 months’ probation in March. That Clackamas County employee in October directed the city cop to Ponte’s place of employment (outside Multhomah County), where Human Resources and coworkers were interviewed. Following request by local law enforcement, we are to believe the Federal ATF’s Firearms Technology Criminal Branch (location not identified) swiftly identified a shotgun Ponte had fired with coworkers. And that it had passed through interstate or foreign commerce, to be to hand in Oregon. (I find it interesting that, when still a City investigation, the US Forest Service was able to identify the remote site where firearms were used recreationally.) We are to believe an FBI agent (name redacted) then took jurisdiction, and asked all papers, including his affidavit describing the PPB Detective’s actions and the charges against Ponte, be kept secret. With US District Magistrate You’s assent, Assistant US Attorney Thomas Ratcliffe began prosecution.
    Oregon Law Enforcement Database System (LEDS)

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