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Gov. Kate Brown also announces a new statewide task force for police training, standards and accountability.

FILE - Leola 'Mother' Veasley reads  'Back Home' by Gloria Jean Pinkney to African-American youths during part of the Juneteenth celebration at the North Portland Branch Library in 2002.Gov. Kate Brown said she will personally support efforts to establish a state holiday celebrating black Americans' freedom.

On Wednesday, June 18, Gov. Brown officially proclaimed June 19 as Juneteenth — a long-standing holiday that honors the last enslaved peoples to be freed after the end of the Civil War in 1865.

While the proclamation is ceremonial, Brown also announced that she will introduce a bill in the 2021 legislative session making Juneteenth an official statewide holiday.

"This year, celebrating black freedom and achievement on Juneteenth is more important than ever as people across Oregon, the United States, and around the world protest systemic racism and unequivocally show that Black Lives Matter," Brown said.

"I know this is a small, yet important step," she continued. "I encourage all Oregonians to join me in observing Juneteenth by getting educated on systemic racism in this country and getting involved in the fight for racial justice. It's important to me that Oregon is a place that everyone can call home, and thrive."

If approved, the bill would enshrine Juneteenth alongside New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Election Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Private businesses are under no obligation to close during state holidays, though non-essential public employees are more likely to get the day off. City of Portland and Multnomah County employees already have been given Juneteenth off as a paid holiday this year.

New committee announced

Also on Wednesday, Gov. Brown announced plans to create a Public Safety Training and Standards Task Force that will study how Oregon trains and certifies its law enforcement officers.

The Governor's Public Safety Policy Adviser, Constantin Severe, will chair the group, though other members have not been announced.

The taskforce will seek answers to these questions, per Brown:

• How to apply best practices, research and data to officer training and certification.

• How to best incorporate racial equity into law enforcement training and certification.

• How to incorporate best practices on the concepts of "least amount of force necessary" for accomplishing lawful objectives, as well as de-escalation.

• The composition of the Board on Public Safety Standards and Training and how to include additional public participation.

• Statutory requirements for officer decertification.

"I have been proud to see Oregonians standing up peacefully and making their voices heard in calling for racial justice and real criminal justice reform, even in the middle of this pandemic, because the need for change is so pressing," Brown said. "But words from leaders aren't enough. We need action. It's time for a full review of law enforcement training, certification and decertification practices."


Zane Sparling
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