You may remember in the summer there was some furor about a certain city commissioner and his alleged role in the formation of a policy targeting certain criminals for special treatment under the law. At the time, there was a suggestion that city hall was creating a "secret list" of the worst offenders as part of its so-called Service Coordination Team.
Our efforts to pursue public records to get to the bottom of this program have all but been met with a middle finger by the District Attorney's office, City Attorney's office, and the commissioner himself.
Still. What a difference a few months makes, eh? Since then, the city commissioner involved appears to have become considerably less interested in the operation of the police bureau, and responsibility for working with the police bureau to craft policy will now rest on the balanced and rational shoulders of Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
It's a good job. Because whoever was involved in crafting the Service Coordination Team's Standard Operating Procedures appears to have decided to wait until after somebody asked to see them before actually writing them down.
The Mercury, wondering what policies or standards apply when the SCT decides to put someone on the list, has been asking to see the Standard Operating Procedures since May. Officials with the program promised to produce one by July, and it didn't happen.
The city has been actively utilizing the program since at least March 5, when Janet Strachan was arrested for alleged possession of cocaine residue in a crack pipe in Old Town, an offense that would normally be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. But presumably because of Strachan's status on list, she is being prosecuted for a felony. How did she wind up on that list, and could she get off of it?
Strachan's attorney, Lisa Pardini, prepared two motions to dismiss the case against Strachan, both based on the Oregon Constitution. The first was a motion to dismiss on the basis of equal privileges: In other words, the idea that all citizens should be treated equally, regardless of whether or not your name is on a list of prior arrestees. The second was a motion to dismiss on the basis of due process, which according to the Oregon Constitution is the idea that "every man shall have remedy by due course of law for injury done him in his person, property, or reputation." (In other words, Strachan should have an opportunity to contest her placement on the list.)
Yet it now seems that when Strachan was arrested, there wasn't even a written procedure in place to form a basis for her special treatment. No wonder we had such a hard time tracking one down! Today the Mercury has finally obtained the SOP document, signed by Central Precinct Commander Mike Reese. On September 22, 2008. More than seven months after Strachan's arrest, and months after we started asking about it.
Check it out, after the jump!
Commissioner Randy Leonard wrote on the Mercury's blog in late August that "I have never been told of a list, I have never seen a list, I have never been told by the police bureau there is such a list, and I have never emailed an officer or anyone else about a list," but he asked the council for $840,000 to expand the program in late 2007. Meanwhile, the Standard Operating Procedures for the program in question clearly make mention of such a list:
The NLCEP Chronic Arrestee List is a confidential document that may only be shared with law enforcement or government employees responsible for the administration of social services, corrections, or courts processes associated with the arrestee.
There is also mention in the SOP that the Police Bureau has been generating a list since 2003 (indeed, Mercury alum Phil Busse wrote about a list in December that year). In other words, the list has been kept a pretty deep and dark secret all along--apparently, even from the commissioner involved in funding the attached program's expansion, if we take Leonard's word for it.
Yes, you're in Portland, Oregon. I promise.
I'll ask Amy to put in a request for comment with Commissioner Leonard, since he is yet to renege on his emailed threat to call City Hall security if I even approach his office with questions about this program. So I'm unsure as to the quality or coherence of any likely response. Still, hope springs eternal.
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