CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — A pair of bills addressing doxing and the release of mugshots in Oregon are drawing unlikely allies: police and left-wing demonstrators.
Representatives Brad Witt and Janelle Bynum sponsored both bills, which had a public hearing Monday morning. Bynum called it a community discussion on values, and the “cancel culture” that society has created.
House Bill 3047 addresses doxing, the act of publicly revealing private information about people, usually via the Internet, with malicious intent. The bill would allow for civil action for improper disclosure of personal information, such as someone’s home address, email address, phone number or information about their children.
“Throughout the summer I heard from constituents, journalists, advocates, organizers, and members of law enforcement who were negatively impacted by doxing,” Bynum said. “Doxing became a tool of oppression that forced people into shells of their former selves and even forced families to take monumental steps to protect themselves.”
Meanwhile, House Bill 3273 would prohibit police from releasing booking photos except for in specific circumstances and would require publish-for-pay publications to remove mugshots upon request without charging fees for removal and destruction. As outlined in the bill, police agencies would only be able to release booking photos to the person depicted in the photo, to other law enforcement agencies, and to the public if authorities determine there is a suitable purpose, such as an active search for a suspect.
Numerous officials and citizens testified in support of the bills. Notably, the proposed legislation has support from both law enforcement — the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association (OSSA) and Oregon Association Chiefs of Police — as well as protesters and their supporters.
Juan Chavez of the Oregon Justice Resource Center has spoken out countless times against purported overreaches and abuses by police. In his testimony, he said “we’ve seen a pattern emerge in Portland,” where police arrest protesters for low-level crimes such as disorderly conduct and “the often-abused interference with a police officer,” even though they know they’re unlikely to be convicted or even prosecuted.
“And yet, on the very night of a protester’s arrest, the police bureau would often release these booking photos,” Chavez said. “This results in trial by press release, not a judge or jury. And make no mistake, in this day and age, this is the digital version of a perp walk.”
Chavez said demonstrators have told him they’ve found their pictures, names, addresses and employers’ addresses plastered across the Internet. They’ve been threatened, some to the point they had to move, he said.
OSSA Executive Director Jason Myers’ testimony had a similar theme, but with the victims and perpetrators reversed.
“Doxing has a chilling effect for public safety officials,” he said, detailing one event in which an officer’s name was stated during a live stream. “Individuals then showed up at that law enforcement officer’s house, scaring a family member.”
Myers said fears of doxing has also made it more difficult to recruit and retain officers.
He also spoke in favor of limiting instances in which mugshots are shared, noting such photos often reflect the worst day of someone’s life.
“They are harmful to individuals, especially individuals who are suffering from behavioral health issues,” Myers said.
All of the testimony presented Monday was in favor of both bills, though a representative for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) raised concerns about the language of HB 3047. In particular, the line reading, “The defendant, with the intent to harass, humiliate or injure the plaintiff, knowingly caused personal information to be disclosed.”
“Holding someone accountable for doxing because they have the intent to ‘humiliate someone’ is overly broad and brings about the potential for capturing expressive conduct,” Lauren Krapf said. Krapf added the ADL would strongly suggest changing the language to better protect free speech.
The House Subcommittee on Equitable Policing plans to continue the public hearing on Wednesday morning.