For the first time since Portland police created a secret list five years ago identifying the 35 most-frequently arrested petty criminals in the city’s core, the American Civil Liberties Union and defense attorneys are challenging its constitutionality, reports The Oregonian. In a court hearing yesterday, attorneys asked police and a prosecutor to explain how the list of drug- and property-crime suspects is compiled and why it is secret.
Officer Jeff Myers said the list of 35 targeted individuals has grown to almost 400 people, some of whom are prosecuted more harshly for offenses. Defense attorneys contend that the list unconstitutionally pegs people as chronic offenders based on arrests — not convictions. They say people who wind up on the list have no way to appeal. Public defender Lisa Pardini said the list includes a disproportionate number of African Americans. She said many on the list got there because they violated now-defunct drug-free zones, which survived court challenges until a study showed police disproportionately banned African Americans. Police and prosecutors say the list is constitutional and has proved effective at reducing the likelihood that offenders will repeat their crimes. They say the compilation of names has helped police get services — such as housing and drug treatment — to the most chronic offenders.