Lawmakers OK a slew of bills to change police practices
Oregon lawmakers continued during their recently concluded session to build on the measures they passed a year ago to overhaul policing practices.
They passed more than a dozen bills, adding to what they did during a June 2020 special session Gov. Kate Brown called after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. His murder by a now-former police officer triggered nationwide protests about police conduct toward racial and ethnic minorities.
Brown has signed several of the bills, and a few have taken effect already. She is expected to sign all of them.
Most of the bills originated from a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee focused on police.
The leader of the panel and the full committee is Rep. Janelle Bynum, a Democrat from Clackamas and a Black businesswoman who had an encounter with police in 2018 when someone reported her as a "suspicious person" while she was canvassing her district.
"We heard Oregonians when they said that the power of policing comes from community. This session, the community rebuilt policing," she said in a statement.
"We began with an ambitious agenda, and we finished strong. We also realize that our work is not yet done, and we intend on bringing forth more bills in the interim (2022) session. For now, I'm focused on seeing how communities, cities and counties will build locally. We've given them the keys, now it's time for them to drive."
Most bills passed on bipartisan votes in the House and Senate, although dissenters were generally Republicans.
The top Republican is Rep. Ron Noble, a former McMinnville police chief, who also worked for Corvallis police. He also said the bills form the basis for real changes in police practices, but much work lies ahead for officers, police agencies and the state agency that oversees training of public safety personnel. Brown named a new director from outside the agency earlier this year.
Although lawmakers passed other bills aimed at changes in the criminal justice system itself, House Bill 2002 did not make it. Several of its advocates were from minority communities and mental health groups, which sought it to remove low-level interactions with police that have resulted in tragedies. They criticized legislative leaders for its failure.
"I'm so appreciative of the community-driven process that was behind the bill," House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat from Portland who called its failure her biggest disappointment of the session, said. "The discussion will continue, and I look forward to working with the coalition to bring the bill back in next year's session."
Key funding from that bill did advance, including a $10 million special-purpose appropriation for culturally specific justice reinvestment programs, $4 million to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission for restorative justice grants, $1.5 million for the Reimagine Safety Fund and $10 million for Senate Bill 620 to help local governments cushion the loss of fees that counties charge people who are in post-prison supervision.
Here is a list of key policing bills passed during the session:
House Bill 2162: Most police agencies are required to obtain accreditation, which means meeting standards set by an organization designated by the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (state agency). For agencies with at least 100 officers, the deadline is July 1, 2025; for agencies with at least 35 officers, it's July 1, 2026.
The state public safety academy in Salem must conduct equity training for police.
Two public members are added to the Board on Public Safety Standards and Training, one each nominated by the House speaker and Senate president, and one public member is added to its police policy committee. One of the three must be from a historically underrepresented community.
House Bill 2481: Police agencies cannot obtain specified military surplus equipment from the federal government: unmanned armored or weaponized aircraft, grenades and grenade launchers and firearms silencers. If other equipment purchases are approved, city councils and county boards must sign off on them.
House Bill 2513: Officers must have training in airway anatomy and child and adult cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Police must summon medical services, when "tactically feasible," if someone under restraint is having a medical emergency.
House Bill 2527: The state agency will set standards for private-security employees, who will have to obtain state licenses. Some security providers for higher education are exempt.
House Bill 2575: State grants from a $960,000 fund can go to local agencies to develop local trauma training through the state agency. The program is intended to help police deal with people or groups experiencing trauma.
House Bill 2928: Tear gas and nonlethal projectiles, such as rubber bullets, can be used for crowd control only if someone's conduct justifies police use of deadly physical force. Sound devices and strobe lights are banned. Police must evacuate injured people and allow access by emergency medical services. If police induce another agency to take actions barred by state law or court order, it is second-degree official misconduct, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine.
House Bill 2929: Police must report misconduct by officers of violations of standards. Reports are to be filed with a direct supervisor, a higher-ranking officer in the chain of command or the state agency, which can forward a report to the local agency where it originated. Reports must be filed within 72 hours and investigations completed within three months. The state agency must receive reports when misconduct is substantiated. Gov. Brown has signed this bill; it takes effect Jan. 1.
House Bill 2930: A new 15-member commission will develop statewide standards, instead of local, for police conduct and discipline. The new standards will prevail over collective bargaining between local agencies and police unions. A statewide standard of "preponderance" of evidence will guide decisions by arbitrators in police misconduct cases.
House Bill 2932: Agencies must report incidents to a national use-of-force database maintained by the FBI. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission will analyze data and report to lawmakers on its findings.
House Bill 2936: The state agency must investigate the backgrounds of officer candidates at the state public safety academy, aimed at whether they have prior participation in hate groups, racial supremacy organizations or militant groups. Local agencies must set standards for speech and expression by officers both in and outside the course of their employment, but cannot violate their constitutional rights. Brown signed this bill, which takes effect Jan. 1.
House Bill 2986: Officers are required to undergo training in identifying, investigating and reporting crimes motivate by bias, based on the perceived gender of the victim. Brown signed this bill, which takes effect Jan. 1.
House Bill 3047: Suits can be filed against people who release personal information with the intent of stalking, harassing or injuring someone, a practice known as "doxxing." Brown signed this bill, which took effect June 15.
House Bill 3059: Police authority to declare "unlawful assemblies" is modified. Brown signed this bill, which takes effect Jan. 1.
House Bill 3145: Officer discipline when an agency imposes an economic sanction must be reported within 10 days to the state agency, which already maintains a database of officers whose certifications have been suspended or revoked. These reports would be added to the database.
House Bill 3164: State law is changed to align with Oregon Supreme Court decisions about when someone is arrested for interfering with police. Arrests must be based on whether someone knowingly or intentionally interferes with police, so police cannot arrest people based on noncriminal behavior. Brown signed this bill, which took effect June 11.
House Bill 3273: Police are restricted in their release of booking photos and how they can be used publicly. Brown has signed this bill, which takes effect Jan. 1.
House Bill 3355: Identification is specified for police assigned to work crowd control in cities over 60,000 (Portland, Gresham, Hillsboro, Beaverton and four others; Corvallis just falls under 60,000), either a name or number on a uniform and something that signifies the officer's agency, such as "police" or "sheriff." It also specifies how the public can obtain that information. The requirement does not apply to Oregon State Police, or to officers in undercover operations. Brown signed this bill, which took effect June 15.
Senate Bill 204: Civilian oversight boards can have access to the Law Enforcement Data System.
Senate Bill 621: This lets stand the civilian oversight board for police that Portland voters approved in 2020. Future ballot measures in other cities are covered by the bill, which Brown signed June 23.
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