UPDATE (3:03 p.m. PT) — As demonstrations have erupted across the nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, Oregon leaders have stepped in to speak up.
Floyd, a Black man, died last week after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Oregon state Sen. Lew Frederick said, in many ways, these recent protests remind him of when he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in his youth.
“What’s good to see is the number of people who are coming out to say: ‘We’ve had enough. We’re not going to continue along this path that we’ve been going for decades.’” Frederick told OPB’s “Morning Edition.” “So, I’m pleased to see that.”
Frederick spoke at a press conference Monday with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown when she announced she would be deploying National Guard troops to help control protests in Portland.
At the press conference, Frederick said: “I still wonder if I’m going to die when I see a police car behind me.”
Frederick said he and other members of the Legislature’s People of Color Caucus plan to introduce legislation focusing on police accountability in the next session.
The People of Color Caucus announced Tuesday that it will ask the Legislature to take at least three specific actions to improve police accountability in response to Floyd’s death and subsequent protests.
In an upcoming special session, the caucus said it will first request that a bill from the last two legislative sessions regarding law enforcement disciplinary actions that go to arbitration be included in any policy bills considered.
Frederick introduced the bill, Senate Bill 1567, last session. It would prohibit an arbitrator from lessening disciplinary action against a law enforcement officer if it is determined that the officer has committed misconduct, the caucus said.
The caucus will also be requesting the consideration of a new legislative concept that would require the attorney general to investigate and prosecute, if needed, any death or serious physical injury as a result of law enforcement action.
“The POC Caucus believes that independent investigations are necessary for all cases where law enforcement kills or seriously injures civilians, and that the Oregon Department of Justice is the appropriate agency to be assigned this task,” the caucus said in a statement.
Lastly, the caucus requests that the House Interim Committee on Judiciary immediately create a bipartisan work group to recommend changes to state law regarding physical force by law enforcement. That work would then lead to a bill for the 2021 legislative session, the caucus said.
“The issue is simply two words: accountability and trust,” Frederick said in a statement. “Both are broken. It will take a major effort to establish them in our society. The myth that the system was sound has been overturned. Now the work begins.”
In a statement, Democratic leadership in the state Senate said they support the proposals.
“The roots of racism run deep in our country and in Oregon,” said Sen. James Manning Jr., D-Eugene. “As a former law enforcement officer, I know no justification for the actions taken by the officers in Minneapolis. This must stop. We must do better. Only together can we fix this.”
Senate majority leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, also called for an end to racist violence, saying his party was committed to “support and advance the polices put forth by the People of Color Caucus.”
Listen to the full conversation by clicking play on the audio player at the top of this story.