A bill in the Oregon Legislature that would strengthen an officer’s duty to report a colleague’s misconduct has gained support of law enforcement leaders following amendments, though not all police agencies are on board.
Officers in Oregon are required by law to report another officer’s misconduct if they witness it, but there is no requirement that agencies investigate that allegation. House Bill 2929 would require an investigation be conducted within three months of a misconduct report.
Additionally, the proposed law also would require officers to make a report if they develop concerns about a colleague’s physical, intellectual or moral fitness for the job — for instance, if they notice a drug addiction or mental imbalance.
Supporters include Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, who has written to members of the county’s legislative delegation urging support.
“To someone who does not support this bill, I would like to know, do they want officers with low moral fitness to be on the street?” Hummel said. “If their answer is no, well why the hell wouldn’t you want a fellow officer to report them?”
The original version of the bill, introduced in January by Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas, was opposed by groups representing Oregon’s police chiefs and sheriffs, and also Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson, who testified against the bill earlier this year. Specifically, Nelson and the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association had asked that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries not be the agency that maintains a searchable database of public police misconduct allegations.
The database requirement was subsequently taken out of the bill — information on misconduct allegations would now be subject to a public records request instead.
In light of the change, a spokesperson for Nelson said he has dropped his opposition. Several law enforcement groups remain opposed to HB 2929, however, including the Oregon Fraternal Order of Police and the Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs.
Dan Thennell, an attorney representing the fraternal order, expressed skepticism about the legislation, specifically the proposed requirements to publicly disclose misconduct allegations, saying bad information had been used to justify it.
“Facts matter to us as I’m sure they do to members of the Legislature,” Thennell said. “What is happening in law enforcement is startling. Good officers are leaving and going to other states, positions are staying unstaffed because good applicants are not applying, officers in all corners of the state are demoralized.”
HB 2929 passed the House of Representatives unanimously, and it’s currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
There are seven other police reform bills still alive this legislative session:
• House Bill 2513 would require police officers to be trained and certified in CPR.
• House Bill 2936 would declare that racism has no place in policing and require potential officers to submit to background checks, including review of their social media accounts.
• House Bill 3047 would establish a civil cause of action for improper disclosure of personal information.
• House Bill 3059 would remove the requirement that officers arrest people for unlawful assembly.
• House Bill 3273 would restrict the release of jail booking mugs.
• House Bill 3355 would require officers patrolling large cities to wear identifying information on their uniforms.
• House Bill 3164 would prohibit charging a person interfering with an officer if they are already being charged with another offense for the same conduct.