Special session underway as lawmakers consider police reform


Special Session to dive into police accountability, COVID-19 response

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) —  Oregon lawmakers headed to Salem Wednesday for a special session called by the governor to respond to coronavirus and demands for police reform.

Among the changes in police accountability are bills that ban chokeholds, the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Another proposed policy thrown into the mix called for the State Attorney General to investigate fatal shootings by officers rather than have the case go to a grand jury.

There’s also legislative support for a measure that would make it more difficult for officers to get their job back in law enforcement if they are fired. While Ferraris is concerned about policymakers being too reactionary, he said he understands the gravity of the current situation.

 Law officers know changes are coming.

“We are facing the most difficult times that I can recall in my five-decade career,” said Woodburn Police Chief Jim Ferraris.”We’re not ignorant to the current condition, support is galvanized to make change and we know change is needed”

In addition to police reform, lawmakers also plan to tackle COVID-19 procedures, rent control, and filling the $2 billion budget hole.

As the special session began, not all Oregon lawmakers were wearing masks. At least two lawmakers were not wearing them on the Senate floor. Most of the members, however, are wearing cloth masks or plastic shields — but there are other special rules in place.

Since the House can’t fit all 60 members on the floor with social distancing, many are in their offices and are called onto the floor in groups for roll call and to vote.

The special session on Wednesday is different than all the ones that have proceeded it. The capitol building will be closed to the public because of the coronavirus restrictions, however, the session will be streamed online.

KOIN 6 News will continue to update this story when new information is available.

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