FILE — Salem police van ride

Two officers with the Salem Police Department hitch a ride on the side of a police van during a large anti-fascist protest near the Oregon state capitol building on March 28, 2021. The incident drew some 100 anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter protesters who attacked a caravan of Proud Boys who circled the capitol mall. Three people were arrested that day. Tim Gruver / The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Nine bills aimed at reshaping policing in Oregon are one step closer to Gov. Kate Brown's desk with the same enforcement mechanisms they had in January.

The bills come less than a year after the killing of George Floyd sparked protests against police brutality. They continue today in cities such as Portland, where resentment of law enforcement is renewed after the killing of Robert Delgado, an unarmed homeless man, this month by Portland police. The shooting remains under investigation and reignited calls for changes to policing statewide.

Rep. Janelle Bynum, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, championed both bills that passed from the House with near-unanimous support Monday.

"While these bills by themselves will not end bias in policing, they are a strong step forward," Bynum said in a statement.

Rights of assembly 

House Bill 3164 exempts protesters from prosecution for "interfering with a peace officer," which currently carries fines of up to $6,250 and jail time of up to 364 days. Such charges make up most of the offenses protesters were arrested on last summer, an analysis by The Center Square found. The proposal also addresses allegations of police brutality against journalists over the past year in Portland and elsewhere.

HB 3164 applies the exemption to passive resistance. Person or property crimes committed by protesters would fall under other criminal charges. 

The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, was introduced at the request of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. 

Right to privacy

House Bill 3273 and House Bill 3047 would ban law enforcement from releasing booking photos, known as mugshots, to the public and enable victims of "doxxing," a term given to the act of revealing a person's private information online, to sue for damages related to the release of their personal information without consent.

HB 3273 would allow people to pay no more than $50 to have their booking photos destroyed. Booking photos would be released publicly only to locate suspects at large. 

The two issues are of great concern to protesters and state lawmakers who have found themselves on both ends of the problem.

Police conduct 

Other bills that received House approval Monday hoisted several new duties on officers to report and stop misconduct.

House Bill 2929 would require police officers to report misconduct within 72 hours to superior officers or the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. Superior officers would have 48 hours to open investigations, which must conclude within three months. The bill says all disciplinary reports must be uploaded to a public, searchable database.

Another bill, House Bill 3059, would repeal a state law requiring police to disperse unlawful assemblies of five or more people, peaceful or otherwise. One amendment would leave that up to officers to do if they deemed it necessary.

All police officers on crowd control duty, under House Bill 3355, would be banned from intentionally obscuring their names or ID numbers in cities with populations over 150,000. They also be would required to wear conspicuous police uniforms and tactical gear that distinguishes themselves as law enforcement. Both scenarios have raised legal questions in cities such as Seattle and Springfield at protests last year.

House Bill 2513 would require police officers to render first aid to people experiencing a heart attack or respiratory distress such as the scenario that killed Floyd. Officers would have to be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR and versed in airway physiology.

Hiring and training 

House Bill 2936 would vet new hires at law enforcement agencies, establish social media policies and standardize statewide background checks. It specifies that candidates wearing insignia or associating in any way with a "hate group," "militia group" or "white supremacists" be ineligible for hire.

The bill addresses allegations of racial bias against police in Oregon who once included a Nazi sympathizer, Sgt. Mark Kruger, of the Portland Police Bureau. Kruger admitted to wearing Nazi uniforms to Willamette Week in 2004 and retired in 2014. He won a $5,000 settlement from Portland that year, erasing past disciplinary actions involving several allegations of excessive force.

The ninth bill to pass the Oregon House on Monday, House Bill 2986, would train police to investigate, identify and report gender-based crimes in response to rising rates of violence against transgender people in recent years.

Looking ahead

Several other bills aimed at reforming the police arbitration process and regulating the use of tear gas remain in committee.

The nine bills now await Senate hearings before they can see a floor vote. The Oregon Legislature is set to adjourn June 28.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.