Politics

1st police oversight bills clear Oregon Senate, head to Gov. Kate Brown for signature

By Jonathan Levinson (OPB)
June 3, 2021 12:08 a.m.

The first of more than a dozen bills aimed at increasing police oversight and accountability in Oregon were passed by the Senate, clearing a final hurdle on the way to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk for signature.

The Senate passed five policing bills Wednesday. Save for one bill modifying the crime of interfering with a peace officer, the bills passed with broad bipartisan support. The interfering with a peace officer bill, HB 3164, passed the Senate largely along party lines with Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, joining 11 Republicans voting against the bill. Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, did not vote.

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The bill tweaks the law so people cannot be charged for interfering with a peace officer along with another offense stemming from the same incident, known as charge stacking. It also clarifies that people engaged in passive resistance cannot be arrested for interfering with a peace officer.

“This is based on what has happened during this last year, where there were individuals who were in fact doing civil disobedience, i.e. protesting and asking for redress from their government,” said Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, just before the Senate voted on the bill. “What happened in some of these situations, officers did give an order for them to disperse and leave while they were not doing anything else but protesting. And this is not what the intent of that measure was.”

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The other bills that cleared the Senate on Wednesday were:

HB 2986: Adds “gender” to the list of bias crimes officers must be trained to investigate, identify and report.

HB 3059: Modifies the unlawful assembly law so officers are no longer required to arrest people who don’t comply with dispersal orders.

HB 2929: Adds to a law passed in June requiring officers to intervene and report any behavior they know, or reasonably should know, to be misconduct. Officers must report the misconduct to a superior or the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training within 72 hours. This bill adds violations of minimum standards for physical, emotional, intellectual and moral fitness to the reporting requirements.

HB 2481: Prohibits law enforcement agencies from receiving certain military surplus equipment from the federal government including grenades, grenade launchers, firearm silencers, armored or weaponized unmanned aircraft and combat configured aircraft. The law prohibits the use of federal funds to purchase federal military surplus, and requires a law enforcement agency to get written approval from the governing body that oversees it or, in the case of a county sheriff, to notify the public five days before a purchase.

The Senate is slated to vote Thursday on bills requiring officers to immediately request medical assistance for a restrained person experiencing respiratory or cardiac difficulties, requirements for identification on uniforms of law enforcement officers working in crowd management, and a mandate for Oregon’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training to create a statewide background check process for law enforcement agencies.

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