Canby Police adjust after George Floyd death
After a three-day special session, Oregon legislators passed six bills on June 26 focused on police reform. Since then, Canby Police have been working to amend policies as necessary and went before the City Council to show the department's progress.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called the legislative session following the May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the subsequent civil rights movement.
"I called the Legislature together because I do not want to hear the words 'I can't breathe' from the mouth of a single Oregonian and not from one more American," Brown said during a conference call June 27. "The entrenched racial inequities in our justice system are a long-term problem. It will take more than three days in our state Capitol to set our state on a course toward justice and equity for all."
But in three days, the Legislature did get some work done, agreeing on bills which restrict — but do not ban — police use of chokeholds on suspects and tear gas on crowds. Instead of transferring investigations of officer-involved shootings from county district attorneys to the state attorney general, a bill sets up a legislative committee to look at police use of force, citizen complaints about police and independent review of officer-involved shootings.
With Lts. Jorge Tro and Jose Gonzalez at his side, Canby Police Chief Bret Smith told the City Council on Wednesday, July 15, that the laws resulting from the session are reflected in Canby Police's policies and procedures. Some of them already had been in place, and Canby has made updates as needed.
For instance, the restriction of chokeholds already had been in Canby PD's policies, and Smith said the department does not train officers to use the hold.
Specifically, Canby's policy says, "A carotid hold may ONLY be applied to a person for the protection of life, for the prevention of serious bodily injury."
Canby's General Orders further dictate that only trained officers can use the hold as a means of deadly force, and those officers must be CPR certified.
Regarding use of any deadly force, Canby expects officers to give a warning "wherever practical under the circumstances." Canby's policy on the use of deadly force is as follows: "Deadly force will be used only for the protection of life or the prevention of serious bodily injury or to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon whom the officer has probable cause to believe will pose a significant threat to human life, should escape occur."
Furthermore, the bill that calls for intervening during misconduct and reporting excessive use of force has not only been in Canby PD's policies but is also in other documents as well.
"This isn't just a policy … this is a belief within our department that is very important to us," Smith said.
In addition to the legislation, Smith pointed to two documents that have been circulating since Floyd's death. The documents include "75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice" and "#8cantwait."
The 75 Things document suggests finding out whether local police use body cameras and require their use on all calls, and finding out whether local police use evidence-based police de-escalation trainings.
The #8cantwait recommendations are: ban chokeholds and strangleholds, require de-escalation, require warning before shooting, require a police officer exhaust all alternatives before shooting, require a duty for a police officer to intervene, ban shooting at moving vehicles, require the use of force continuum and require comprehensive reporting.
Smith indicated that most recommendations from those documents are in place in Canby.
"While not all recommendations are accepted at this time, most of the #8cantwait recommendations or those in the 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice are already in effect, and modifications have been made to those policies where they are needed to keep current with the state mandates," Smith said.
Canby Police requires ongoing training of officers in areas such as implicit bias/racial profiling, de-escalation and minimizing use of force, ethics in law enforcement and many others.
Tro showed that Canby puts these policies and trainings into practice as the racial breakdown of those who police stopped, arrested and/or searched in the past year aligns with Canby's demographics. Of those stopped, 1.9% were black, 18.4% Hispanic, and 77.5% white, among other races.
Smith pointed to only two recommendations from the documents that Canby Police does not currently follow. First, Canby does not ban shooting at moving vehicles in all circumstances, but allows it as an exception when deadly force might be required. Second, Canby Police does not use body cameras.
"We've started that way. We've moved in that direction. All of our patrol cars, the uniformed cars, have cameras in them," he said. "We actively use them. … We believe that body cameras have a role. There's no question about it."
Smith and Tro mentioned some barriers to Canby using body cameras, such as cost, privacy issues, editing requirements and more.
But Councilor Greg Parker noted that potential federal legislation could lead to a national body camera requirement, which would be funded. Parker suggested he is interested in carrying on the conversation.
"I recognize the fact that there are some cities in Oregon much smaller than we are that have them and manage to handle the issues there," Parker said.
In all, the mayor and city councilors expressed thanks to the police department for their presentation and their work.
"I'm impressed," said Councilor Trygve Berge. "I'm extremely impressed every time I look at the leadership that you guys are providing. A lot of these bullet points that you guys went over tonight have showed how you guys are ahead of the curve on that stuff, and for that, I'd like to thank you for your leadership and guiding from the top down. Appreciate it."
To view Canby Police's relevant General Orders and other documentation provided to the council, go to bit.ly/32ncvgZ.
Peter Wong contributed to this report.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.