Every year the City Auditor puts together a list of topics for staff to audit. This year, the police topic was intelligence gathering and surveillance and the context was an unprecedented number of street protests in response to George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer.
Audit planning results
For this audit, the review of documents included: our past audits and Independent Police Review documents; media; best practices; federal, state, and local law, police directives and standard operating procedures; and engagement with community members in meetings and an online form.
- Subject Matter Experts and Community Organizations: American Civil Liberties Union Oregon, Coalition of Communities of Color, Western States Center, Portland Cop Watch, Word is Bond, Secure Justice, Technology Association of Oregon, Council on American-Islamic Relations Oregon, Latino Network, PDX Privacy, and Future of Privacy Forum
- Police Staff: Criminal Intelligence Unit, Air Support, Forensic Evidence, Technology Support, Records Management System, Detectives, Crowd Management, Policy, and Inspector General
- Other City Staff: Open Data Team, Information Security, City Attorney’s Office, and Budget Office
- Auditor’s Office Staff: Independent Police Review, City Ombudsman
- Other Auditors: District of Columbia, San Francisco, and Oregon Secretary of State
- This is a high-interest topic that involves limited public information, which leads to distrust
- People don’t know what the Criminal Intelligence Unit does or whether its work provides benefits
- New technologies are outpacing policies and legal protections
- People of color are disproportionally impacted by police surveillance, which is backed up by research
What we learned led to the following audit objective.
Did police gather intelligence and conduct criminal investigations in a manner that protected privacy and civil liberties during the protests that occurred between May 2020 and May 2021?
Concerns identified, but not selected
We selected the audit objective above based on our assessment of areas of greatest risk and community concern. However, there were other important areas that had lower relative risk yet remain a concern. These include:
- Concern that police are tracking information about people and identifying people as gang members without reasonable suspicion. We did not include this because we audited this topic in 2017 and many of the key recommendations are still outstanding. We will continue to follow up on this important topic.
- Concern that police are cooperating with the federal government in ways that they should not be. We did not include this because we heard less about this than the other concerns we selected, and the City already has high profile policies in place regarding cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Joint Terrorism Taskforce.
- Concern that the Criminal Intelligence Unit is not adding value to the City. We did not include this because the Budget Office said that this is a small unit and that it was not unusual for the Bureau to not report performance on less significant budget line items. We determined that this was a lower risk than some of the other concerns we heard.
Our next steps
- Answer the audit objective through additional information requests and interviews
- Plan for fieldwork completion in the Fall
- Compile a publicly available report with findings and recommendations. To get a notice when the report is complete:
- Follow-up with the Bureau a year after the audit report is published to check on the status of the recommendations.
If you are interested in police matters outside the scope of our audit, there are other options for you to get involved or be heard:
- Attend the Portland Committee for Community Engaged Policing (PCCEP) meetings. The committee meets monthly to work with the Mayor and Police Bureau to achieve the goals of equitable policing, meaningful community engagement, and trust.
- Submit complaints about an officer not following the rules to the Independent Police Review within the City Auditor’s Office.
- Share your concerns with a City Council member. The Mayor is the commissioner who oversees the Police Bureau, but each Council member has a vote on ordinances and resolutions related to policing.
- Subscribe to receive the final report and other information from Audit Services
Questions or comments?
Contact Performance Auditor Elizabeth Pape | (503) 823-4869