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Submitted by info on Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:03
May 09, 2012
The Oregon Progressive Party is protesting the Portland Police Bureau's proposal to place video surveillance cameras on private property in Old Town to help monitor drug deals.
"Instead of spying on our citizens and creating a police surveillance state in the vein of Orwell's 'Big Brother,' the PPB should be using their limited resources in prevention and treatment, not adding another weapon to the failed War on Drugs," said Phillip Kauffman, Oregon Progressive Party state council member.
About 20 people came to protest outside City Hall on Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the mayor pulled the item from the morning's council agenda, and referred it back to his office. Last week, Commissioner Dan Saltzman said he wouldn't support the program unless Chief Mike Reese adopted protocol restricting the camera's use and stating the consequences of any misuse.
The chief has said the cameras, which can "pan, tilt and zoom," would focus on public spaces and the images could be monitored by officers' smartphones, mobile computers in their cars or laptops. He said the surveillance could be helpful in aiding police in drug and gang enforcement.
Roberto Lovato, among the protesters, said he had hoped the demonstration would put pressure on the mayor to halt the plan. "If they get the OK to put them up in Old Town and Chinatown, they'll put them everywhere," Lovato said.
The chief's proposal to hold private property owners harmless from any liability that might arise from the installation of the police cameras on their buildings had been placed on the council's consent agenda two weeks ago as an emergency ordinance.
Portland Copwatch objected, and it was pulled off the consent agenda last week and placed on the regular agenda last week allowing for council discussion. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon also has opposed the police plan, saying the surveillance is ineffective and a waste of resources.
The Citizens Crime Commission supports the proposal, saying it will increase security for area businesses and help police enforcement of street-level drug dealing in Old Town Chinatown.