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Police Intelligence Gathering and Surveillance Audit – End of Planning Update

News Article
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We put this webpage together to share the results of the planning phase of the police intelligence audit and to let you know how we came up with the audit objective.
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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

A banner illustrating the reporting progress and highlighting the planning stage.

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.

Interviews included:

  • 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

General observations:

  • 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.

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

A banner illustrating the reporting progress and highlighting the fieldwork stage.
  • 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.

Get involved

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:

Questions or comments?

Contact Performance Auditor Elizabeth Pape | (503) 823-4869


Elizabeth Pape

Performance Auditor II

Bob MacKay

Performance Auditor II