Steve Duin: Portland Police Re-Dedicate Themselves To Video Surveillance

portland police

They were walking, Bill Merritt and Peggy McClure, in the damp shadow of the communication tower atop Council Crest when they bumped into a crew laboring over a manhole and the underground fiber-optic cable that rolls down the hillside. What’s going on? they asked.  “A dedicated line,” one of the ditch-diggers said, “running from the tower down to the Portland police station.” “Great,” McClure said. “So, that means we’ll have quicker response time on 9-1-1 calls?” Not at all, she was told. This line was dedicated to something else altogether.

“Police surveillance. It will pick up signals from police-operated aircraft. Which are sorta like manned drones.” Merritt and McClure have been together for 20 years and married for the last seven, most of which they spent abroad while McClure was managing Peace Corps operations in Botswana and Morocco.

For all they knew, this broadband operation had already been vetted in council sessions, neighborhood meetings and newspaper columns. “We’ve been out of the loop,” Merritt conceded. “But what are we surveilling?” Whatever strikes the fancy of Portland police, it turns out. And once those fiber-optic connections are completed at the Portland Building, the bureau will be able to stream the video to anyone who wants it.

“We do not have drones. We are not getting drones. Period,” Sgt. Pete Simpson insisted Thursday. The bureau’s Cessnas, on the other hand, have been around for years: “We use them for tactical situations. Block searches. Missing persons. If we’re doing a gang cool-down mission in the summer, we’ll have the planes up to provide aerial support. They can do night vision and pursuit.” […]