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City poised to join FBI task force

The Lake Oswego City Council will soon consider whether to allow the police department to take on a role in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Lake Oswego Police Chief Don Johnson said joining the task force would provide more access to regional information of interest to law enforcement and an opportunity for enhanced training.

“The real upside for us is the experience that’s gained in participating at a higher level in investigations that at some point could have direct impact on the Portland metro area and, for certain, would have impact on the state of Oregon,” Johnson said. Lake Oswego would also benefit from building a stronger relationship with the FBI, which sometimes lends its expertise on local investigations, he said.

If the proposal is approved, one of the LOPD’s four regular detectives would dedicate 16 hours, or about two standard work days, each month to the joint task force. During those hours, the assigned detective would work out of the FBI’s Portland office, helping with terrorism-related investigations and bringing those investigative skills back to Lake Oswego.

The FBI established the Portland Division’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in 1997, according to its website. The group expanded in size and scope after 9/11, shifting focus from domestic terrorism to international terrorism. A range of public agencies provide part-time liaisons to the task force’s counterterrorism working groups. Those agencies include the Beaverton, Gladstone, Milwaukie and Tigard police departments, the Clackamas and Multnomah county sheriff’s offices, the state and federal justice departments, defense intelligence agency and Oregon National Guard, among others.

The Portland City Council once withdrew the city’s police bureau from the task force but rejoined a couple of years ago, allowing officers to cooperate on individual terrorism investigations but requiring annual reports on the city’s involvement. The reports were among oversight requirements aiming to satisfy concerns about whether the task force’s investigations could violate state civil rights laws.

“Having access to regional information, enhanced training and just having a relationship with the FBI is really helpful to us,” Johnson said. “It plays into all kinds of investigations in which we might need their expertise.”

The council is scheduled to consider the proposal as part of its consent agenda next week. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 380 A Ave.