SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Oregon policymakers are considering establishing a statewide data-collecting system on police stops, searches and arrests as well as requiring all law enforcement officers to undergo cultural and bias training.
The bipartisan proposals - crafted over 18 months by a law-enforcement task force chaired by state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum - laid out in House Bill 2355 are intended to strengthen Oregon’s prohibition on police profiling that was adopted in 2015.
Many local law enforcement agencies such as Oregon State Police have already been collecting data described in the bill for several years, but the measure would make that practice a statewide requirement as is the case in 19 other states.
The bill, which drew public testimony Monday during its first hearing before lawmakers, would additionally reduce criminal punishments for possessing a controlled substance, currently a felony, to a misdemeanor.
Democratic House Speaker Tina Kotek says the bill’s bifurcated goals of addressing police profiling and reducing drug possession penalties came together by happenstance.
“But together they’re both really powerful if you think about it,” Kotek said Monday. “If we’re really trying to not only reduce profiling but reduce disproportionate impact on the system, overall this is a way to get it at.”
Following any pedestrian or traffic stop, police would be required to report various details on the individuals they made contact with such as race, gender and ethnicity - as perceived by the officer - as well as the nature of the stop and if any searches or arrests were conducted.
The information would then be collected and analyzed for any patterns of profiling by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, which would compile the findings into an annual publicly-available report to the governor and Legislature beginning in 2020.
Many local law enforcement agencies such as Oregon State Police have already been collecting this data for several years, but the bill would make that practice a statewide requirement as is the case in 19 other states.
“What we know about our criminal justice system suggests the presence of enforcement disparities across multiple levels of our criminal justice system,” said Aaron Knott, legislative director of the Oregon Department of Justice, “but the absence of concrete data can drive false conclusions not only as to where disparities are to be found, but why they are to be found.”
All law enforcement officers would also be required to undergo formal educational training on cultural awareness and implicit bias issues_topics that Rosenblum says weren’t even available in police trainings for older generations.
“More than half of our law enforcement officers have not received sufficient training on profiling prevention and that many of those who have received the trainings are our youngest officers who are often poorly positioned to drive the institutional changes necessary to change our policing culture,” Rosenblum said.
How much that might cost taxpayers, however, is still undetermined as lawmakers face a $1.6 billion budget gap for the next two-year cycle that begins July 1.
“The commitment to improving training is substantial,” Kotek said. “We’ll certainly have to find the budget for that.”
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.