Salem, OR – Oregon lawmakers are considering multiple bills aimed at limiting police powers and removing some of the tools they have used to push back and disperse violent mobs who have torched and looted various areas of the state over the course of the past nine months.
House Bill 2481 would block law enforcement agencies in Oregon from receiving surplus equipment from the federal government, to include certain “vehicles, aircraft, grenades, grenade launchers, and firearms silencers.”
Law enforcement agencies seeking to purchase approved surplus military equipment would also be required to publish notice of their request on a “public website,” and would only be permitted to use state or local funds to purchase any such equipment, according to the bill.
Critics have alleged that having access to military-style equipment and weapons have emboldened police and given them an incentive to use excessive force against protesters, The Center Square reported.
Conversely, law enforcement groups argue that the level of violence and destruction exhibited by rioters has left police with no choice but to utilize such tactics.
Lawmakers are also considering House Bill 3059, which would repeal the state law authorizing police “to command dispersal of unlawful assemblies and arrest participants who do not disperse.”
Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner argued that officers have already been working hard to hone in on violent rioters tucked into otherwise peaceful demonstrations, The Center Square reported.
“One of the things that we’ve tried really hard to do is to not paint the crowd with a broad brush,” Chief Skinner said. “We don’t assume everybody is there with criminal intent, and understand that the vast majority of individuals that are assembling are there peacefully and lawfully and just want to be heard.”
He said House Bill 3059 ignores those efforts.
A third bill under consideration is House Bill 2928, which would prohibit police from using pepper spray unless a mayor declares a gathering to be a riot.
In jurisdictions without a mayor, the sheriff would be authorized to declare a riot.
Police would be required to announce their intent to deploy pepper spray at least twice before using it on rioters, according to the legislation.
After the first announcement, they would have to allow “sufficient time” for the rioters to disperse.
Police would then be required to make a second announcement just prior to deploying the spray.
The bill would also regulate the “use of chemical incapacitants, kinetic impact projectiles and sound devices,” and would pave the way for any officer deemed to have violated the act to be charged with first-degree official misconduct.
The use of less-lethal projectiles as a method of crowd control would only be permitted in instances where officers develop probable cause against “a specific person” who they “believe poses a threat to another’s life, poses a threat of serious injury to another or has committed or is committing a crime that constitutes a felony.”
Officers would be prohibited from “disturbing” anyone who is providing medical assistance to another person, and would under no circumstances be allowed to use pepper spray, sound devices, or kinetic impact projectiles “against medical personnel, journalists, legal observers, persons providing humanitarian assistance or houseless persons,” according to the bill.
Police would also be prohibited “from acting in concert with another agency or proxy law enforcement to engage in conduct barred by statute or court order” under the proposed legislation, and would be required to “inform” federal law enforcement agencies of the state’s requirements in an “attempt to enforce” those restrictions.
The bill would strip police immunity from claims made under the Oregon Tort Claims Act pertaining to “riot, civil commotion or mob action,” and would be retroactively applied in order to revive “certain claims.”
Legislators are also considering House Bill 2936, which would require law enforcement agencies to establish rules “prohibiting officers from racist behaviors” such as participating in “militant” or “white supremacist” groups or demonstrating “overt and explicit expressions of racism” on social media.
Having “racist” tattoos, insignia, and patches would also constitute violations under the proposed law.
Any officer deemed to have violated those rules must be reported to the district attorney’s office within two weeks.
The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training would also be tasked with investigating an applicant’s “character” before the applicant would be allowed to train and certify as a reserve officer or sworn officer.
The investigation would include “a racial bias and sympathy test,” as well as a look into the applicant’s financial and psychiatric information.
Under House Bill 2936, the governor would be required to create a task force responsible for establishing a plan for removing law enforcement officers “who have discriminatory sentiments that would violate the rights of protected classes.”
The Bureau of Labor and Industries would also be mandated to set up and maintain a hotline for people to make complaints about police conduct.
The House Committee on Judiciary House Subcommittee on Equitable Policing is slated to discuss the police arbitration process on Wednesday morning, The Center Square reported.