On Thursday February 19, 2015 the Portland City Council voted 3-2 in favor of assigning two officers to the FBIs Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The decision that attracted apprehensions and discussions over the past few weeks was not a unanimous one. The council who was originally divided on the matter looked to Mayor Charlie Hales to determine the final decision. Mayor Hales who had recently questioned the need for any further relations with the task force, remarkably acted as the swing vote to assign the officers. Following the decision; Mayor Hales remarked that it was one of the most difficult decisions he’s had to make. In the past, Hales had voted against Portland’s involvement with JTTF. But given the recent events in the world, including the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Hales now supports assigning the two officers and believes that they should be as prepared as possible future threats. Although Mayor Hales doesn’t believe that Portland’s cops can change that culture of the FBI, he remains confident that the officers will follow the council’s instructions.
The decision made to mend the cities on going estranged relationship with the JTTF will reverse Portland’s outlier status nationally as the only big city that doesn’t assign officers to participate on a full-time basis. Although the final decision has been made there are still many people who are opposed to the cities involvement with the JTTF.
David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon and Portland’s Commissioner Steve Novick are among the many dissatisfied citizens. The concern that the Muslim communities exhibit little trust in the Portland police force is still prevalent. Findanque argued that the most effective way to keep the city of Portland safe is to build trust among the community and local cops by staying out of the FBI’s task force. Novick echoed his stance, commenting that he “cannot ignore the fact that the leaders of numerous organizations in the Muslim community say that many Muslims do not trust the FBI- and would trust the Portland police less if we join the JTTF.” Although many believe that joining the JTTF will further estrange the Muslim communities relationship with Portland, the Somali American Council of Oregon’s has opposing views. Musse, Olol the chairman of the Somali Council admitted he was pleased with the council’s decision, and admitted he felt like the council had heard their concerns. In his previous interviews on the topic he expressed his concerns that teens could be recruited into local gangs or become targets by terrorist groups for radicalization. He believes that the decision to work with the task force will provide more resources and contacts to prevent that fate.
With a city divided, there is no telling what the outcome of the council’s decision to remain in relations with the JTTF will be. And although Mayor Hales acted as the swing vote in the final decision, he does admit that the decision is not on the popular side.