State legislation lets stand Portland police review board
Portland's independent police review board, which voters approved in the Nov. 3 general election, will be allowed to stand under state law in a bill headed to Gov. Kate Brown.
The Oregon House approved without amendment Senate Bill 621 on a 37-19 vote Monday, June 7. The vote was mostly along party lines; Republican Rep. Greg Smith of Heppner joined 36 Democrats to vote for it.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, so that Oregon's 1973 collective bargaining law for public employees does not stand in the way of the board.
"Ultimately it was felt that the state shall not stand in the way of a city people's right to determine for themselves the best path to support their public safety needs," Rep. Maxine Dexter, a Democrat from Portland and the bill's floor manager, said.
"This bill will provide clear direction to the city of Portland, allowing for the efficient implementation of the measure."
The board is empowered to consider deaths of people in police custody, police use of force that results in injury, police discrimination against "protected classes" defined in state law, and alleged violations of constitutional rights. The board has the authority to impose discipline on police officers and recommend policy changes to the Portland Police Bureau and the City Council.
The bill applies to review boards created by referral to voters of a ballot measure after July 1, 2020, and approval by voters in the Nov. 3 general election. It applies only to Portland.
At its initial hearings March 9-10 by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill drew favorable testimony from Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, League of Oregon Cities, a representative of Multnomah County, Albina Ministerial Alliance, and the Real Police Accountability Political Action Committee, which promoted the ballot measure.
The only opposition came from the Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs.
Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees presented this statement on May 6 via Alejandra Lilley to the House Judiciary Committee:
"Any case of excessive force, brutality or death at the hands of a taxpayer funded civil servant must be justly evaluated. There is absolutely no place in law enforcement for officers who abuse their power, perpetrate harm in our communities or who carry out public extra-judicial murder.
"Along with the majority of voters, Oregon AFSCME Council 75 strongly supports SB 621 to protect Oregonian families and hold law enforcement officers accountable for any and all misconduct, brutality and other offenses. The voters have spoken, and we stand to support their voice and our communities."
The bill passed the Senate by a 20-7 vote on April 5, after a party-line vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to send it to the full Senate. The House Judiciary Committee passed it without amendment on a 6-3 vote on May 20. Rep. Ron Noble, a Republican from McMinnville and a former police chief, was absent on the committee vote but opposed the bill on final passage.
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