Ore. House passes package of police accountability measures

Some measures call on officers to investigate gender-based hate crimes, report misconduct by colleagues and be trained in CPR


By Maxine Bernstein
oregonlive.com

SALEM, Ore. — In a milestone for the social justice movement in Oregon, state representatives on Monday approved a package of bills to weed out people who aren’t fit to wear a police uniform and then work to regulate the actions of officers once on the job.

One measure would require police agencies to ask applicants about their opinions on race and diverse cultures and then rigorously evaluate them.

Others call on police to investigate potential gender-based hate crimes, require officers to report misconduct by colleagues, and train officers to perform CPR and call for emergency medics if someone suffers medical distress while restrained.

Still others would restrict how police use the charge of interfering with an officer and limit the public release of booking photos.

Some of the changes are already in place in larger departments. Portland police, for example, already must report a fellow officer’s misconduct, perform CPR and summon medical help for someone in distress.

Some of the bills arose from complaints during last summer’s mass social justice protests in Portland, including the Police Bureau’s removal of officer names from uniforms. Under a bill approved by the House, officers doing crowd control in cities of more than 150,000 people must have their names visible on their uniforms so they can be easily identified.

The legislation largely sprang from bipartisan work done by the House Judiciary’s Equitable Policing Subcommittee, led by Reps. Janelle Bynum, D- Clackamas, who served as chair, and Ron Noble, R- McMinnville, who was vice chair.

The bills together are intended to improve the professionalism of policing in Oregon and build trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve, Bynum and Noble said.

Bynum thanked Noble, a former police chief in McMinnville, for sharing his expertise in helping to craft the legislation.

She said she hopes the package will “make it abundantly clear that policing power comes from the community, justice, accountability and transparency.”

One of the bills condemns membership or participation by officers in hate groups, racial supremacy organizations or militant groups and outlines new principles that the state expects in law enforcement for the first time and in clear language, Bynum said.

Bynum read from the bill: “The Legislative Assembly finds that number one, racism has no place in public safety. Number two, law enforcement officers hold a unique position in our community and must demonstrate principles of equity, transparency, honesty and trust with all members of society.”

Noble said he hopes the slate of bills will encourage true community-based policing and a society that values everyone.

“Community policing — when an officer feels safe to engage with the public, to walk a beat, to drive a car and to engage in communication — in many areas in our state that doesn’t happen anymore,” Noble said. “I’m hoping this package of police reform bills will encourage that to happen.”

Here’s a rundown of the nine bills passed by the House. They now head to the Senate:

— House Bill 2513 requires police officers to be trained in airway anatomy and certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and to request an emergency medical response immediately, if tactically feasible, after encountering someone who is restrained and suffering from respiratory or cardiac ailments. It requires at least three hours of training in the state’s basic police academy and biannual continued education.

— House Bill 2936 requires the state Department of Public Safety Standards & Training to create a uniform background checklist and a personal history questionnaire for use by police or sheriff’s agencies hiring officers or deputies. It must include a psychiatric or psychological evaluation of the applicant and an assessment of their “tendencies, feelings and opinions toward diverse cultures, races and ethnicities” and “differing social, political, economic and life statuses.”

It also requires police agencies to adopt policies that set standards for officers’ speech and expression in and outside of work, including material posted on the Internet, shared in a video or private speech.

This is the bill that spells out police values that Bynum read aloud.

“No one bill can help us defeat racism or clean up our policing structure,” Bynum said. “But House Bill 2936 is an important step forward.”

— House Bill 2929 is the so-called Duty to Report legislation. It requires an officer to prevent or stop misconduct by another officer or reserve officer unless the witness officer can’t intervene safely.

An officer who witnesses misconduct must report it no later than 72 hours later to a direct supervisor, a person in the officer’s chain of command or to the state police standards and certification agency.

The agency receiving the report should complete an investigation within three months. The agency must report a finding of misconduct to state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training but doesn’t have to report violations of the state’s minimum physical, emotional, intellectual or moral fitness standards for officers.

— House Bill 2986 requires the Oregon Board on Public Safety Standards and Training to make sure officers are trained to investigate, identify and report crimes motivated by prejudice based on the perceived gender of a person, as well as race, color, religion, national original, sex or political beliefs.

— House Bill 3047 creates a civil cause of action for improper disclosure of personal information, known as doxing.

Plaintiffs would have to show by a preponderance of evidence that someone disclosed their private information with the intent to stalk, harass or injure them, knew the plaintiff didn’t consent to the disclosure or that the disclosure led to the plaintiff being stalked, harassed or injured. Plaintiffs could seek economic, noneconomic, punitive damages and injunction relief.

“Doxing has been used as a tool to silence people who are trying to make their voices heard,” said Rep. Wlnsvey Campos, D- Aloha. “We are giving these people the tools they need to protect themselves and hold those responsible accountable.”

State Rep. Bill Post, R- Keizer, said the bill was personal to him because a Dallas-based journalist posted Post’s personal information online after Post made public personal information about supporters of an initiative to ban assault weapon sales in the state.

“I need this because my family went through hell,” he said.

— House Bill 3059 modifies Oregon’s unlawful assembly law, removing the requirement that officers “shall” go among people assembled to “may” go among a crowd to order dispersal. If people refuse to leave, officers “may” make arrests but no longer would be required to do so. And if they make an arrest, it must be for a specified unlawful offense.

“Too many folks have found themselves injured, traumatized and arrested simply for exercising their First Amendment rights,’' said Rep. Andrea Valderrama, D- East Portland.

— House Bill 3164 restricts the crime of interfering with an officer by removing “refusal to obey officer’s order” as part of the offense. It also restricts the charge from being added if a person is arrested on other criminal allegations.

— House Bill 3273 prohibits law enforcement agencies from releasing booking photos, except in certain circumstances. They could release the photos to the public only if determining a “law enforcement purpose” for the release, including to capture a suspect or identify additional crimes.

“Those photos that are published can ruin a person’s life who has not yet been found guilty of any crime,” said Rep. Andrea Salinas, D- Lake Oswego. “They can linger on and impact people’s lives for years to come. This legislation helps protect those people from having one bad day damage their future.”

— House Bill 3355 specifies the type of identification officers must wear during crowd control events in cities of more than 150,000 population. Oregon State Police are excluded.

An officer’s first initial and last name, or another unique identifier issued by the agency, must be on the front and back of the uniform and on the back of a helmet if worn. The name of the agency and the word “POLICE,” “SHERIFF” or “TROOPER” must be on the front and back of the uniform.

Agencies must adopt policies, prohibiting the intentional obscuring of any of the information.

“Knowing an officer’s name allows community to view them as a real person, rather than just a uniform,” said Rep. Mark Meek, D- Gladstone.

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