Oregon House passes 9 bills to change policing

Civic Affairs

5 from official package plus 4 related measures move on to Senate

Inside the Oregon House of Representatives, January 21, 2021 (KOIN)

SALEM, Ore. (Pamplin Media Group) — Five bills aimed at changing policing practices, plus four related measures, have cleared the Oregon House by near-unanimous votes.

All the bills go to the Senate. Five other policing bills, which are likely to affect state agencies, are pending in the Legislature’s joint budget committee.

All emerged from the Judiciary Committee and a subcommittee focused on policing. It follows up the work of a 2020 special session called by Gov. Kate Brown after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. A former officer was convicted April 20 on charges of murder and manslaughter; three other officers await trial. Floyd’s death touched off nationwide protests for racial justice, among them more than 100 nights in Portland.

Rep. Janelle Bynum, a Democrat from Clackamas who leads the full committee and the subcommittee, said lawmakers heard from local governments and associations of police executives and rank-and-file officers, not just groups advocating sweeping change.

“I want to make it clear this was not an opportunity to dig in and bash,” Bynum, who is Black, said. “It was an opportunity to create a community table, where people around the state had a chance to have some input on who protects them and their communities.”

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Rep. Ron Noble, a Republican from McMinnville, a former police chief of that city and a former officer in Corvallis, said all the bills should be considered in context, not individually. He made his comments while speaking about House Bill 2929, which requires police to report misconduct by officers or violations of standards.

“This bill by itself won’t do anything,” Noble said. “This bill, combined with the others that are coming before you, will create the ability and the safety for police officers to speak out when others act inappropriately, use excessive force, or just generally are unfit for the job.”

Bynum spoke about the experience of Elijah Warren, who emerged from his home in East Portland to talk to police about the effects on his family of tear gas they used to disperse a demonstration on Sept. 5. While he did so, an officer struck him on the ear with a baton. The officer was found later to have been identified in other incidents of excessive force.

“Had officers not intervened, Mr. Warren could have been hurt much worse,” Bynum said. “Had other officers reported the other officer’s misconduct earlier, Mr. Warren may never have been struck.”

Bynum said the city of Portland, as far as she knows, has not responded as to whether the officer was disciplined.

“What we do know from reporting is that when officers do not intervene to stop their colleagues’ misconduct, it allows law enforcement to act with impunity,” she said. “Whether it is before, during or after an incident, that is wrong.”

House Bill 2929 passed, 58-0. It specifies who should receive reports of misconduct or violations (supervisors), when they should start investigations (72 hours), and when they should be completed (three months). If there is substantial evidence to support them, reports must be filed with the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

Other bills

Listed below are summaries of the other bills and their votes. starting with four others in the official package:

• House Bill 2513, 58-0: Police must have training in child and adult cardiopulmonary resuscitation, plus training at the public safety academy about airway and circulatory anatomy and physiology. Police also are required to summon emergency medical services if “tactically feasible” and have access to communications.

Rep. Dacia Grayber, D-Portland, is a Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighter who sponsored that bill. She credited the idea to Tigard Mayor Jason Snider, himself a certified paramedic and general surgery administrator for Kaiser Permanente Northwest.

• House Bill 2936, 54-4: The state must investigate the backgrounds of potential officers — including financial and psychological information, and ties with racism or racist organizations — who attend the public safety academy in Salem. Police agencies must set standards for speech and expression by officers on and off the job.

• House Bill 3059, 58-0: Police authority to disperse “unlawful assemblies” is modified, so that if there are arrests, police must make them based on actual crimes, not simply for failure to disperse. Bynum said, “This simple clarification allows a declaration of unlawful assembly to be used as more of a tool to prevent a disaster or mitigate harm to people or damage to property.”

• House Bill 3355, 58-0: Police assigned to work crowd management in cities over 150,000 (Portland, Eugene, Salem) must wear identification — either a name or number — and outerwear that signifies the officer’s jurisdiction, such as “police” or “sheriff.” Noble said, “I suggest that this bill, along with what we will see forthcoming, work together to ensure a safe environment for those who are protesting.”

Four other bills passed by the House also affect aspects of policing:

• House Bill 2986, 58-0, requires police training at the state academy for investigation of crimes based on the perceived gender of the victim.

• House Bill 3047, 58-0, allows civil lawsuits and recovery of damages for intentional disclosure of personal information that is aimed at harassing or harming a person, a practice otherwise known as “doxing.” This bill goes beyond law enforcement, but Noble said it got momentum after information was posted about some police officers.

• House Bill 3164, 48-10, modifies the crime of interfering with police to make it clear it applies to active resistance by someone.

• House Bill 3273, 54-4, bars disclosure of police mug shots except under specified circumstances, including “law enforcement purposes” and convictions in court. The bill is aimed at websites and publications that post mug shots — and remove them only after someone pays a fee to do so. The bill allows them 30 days and sets a fee limit of $50.

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