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Oregon Bill Makes it More Difficult to Hide Police Misconduct

by Jacob Barrett

On June 7, 2021 the Oregon Legislature passed HB 3355 establishing identification requirements for law enforcement assigned to “crowdmanagement” events in which large crowds of 50 persons or more are managed to prevent the outbreak of crowd crushes, affrays, fights, or riots. (The bill carves out an exception for police who are “participating in an undercover law enforcement operation.”)

HB 3355 requires police to affix their first initial and last name or a “unique identifier” to the front and back of their uniform along with the name of their police agency’s jurisdiction and the word “POLICE,” “SHERIFF,” or “TROOPER” along with a patch on the officer’s shoulder identifying the agency they work for.

In addition, SB 3355 requires police agencies to adopt a policy prohibiting  "the intentional obscuring by a law enforcement officer” of any of the required identifiers.

The bill was prompted after protests in 2020 in Portland, Oregon, after the Portland Police Department refused to name an officer who sported a helmet with the number 67 on the back and was accused by multiple protesters of using excessive force.

In spite of that reality, Chad Kemutt, of Albany, Oregon, submitted testimony in opposition to SB3355, stating, “[t]his bill is a horrible idea and the author and sponsors clearly have no respect orappreciation for law enforcement and view our men and women in blue as a bunch of racist thugs with badges.” According to Kemutt, SB 3355 would put police and their families lives in jeopardy from “Antifa, and Black Lives Matter terrorists.”

Contrary to Kemutt’s testimony, SB 3355 actually provides standards that allow the public to identify an officer in order to trace the chain of command and determine who issued orders and whether the officer’s behavior was consistent with those orders.

SB 3355 provides the public with the ability to request the identity of an officer and require the responsible law enforcement agency to conduct an investigation to determine the identity of that officer. Within 14 days ofa request, the agency must provide the officer’s name and Department of Public SafetyStandards and Training number, or an “explanation of why the identification could not beperformed.”

SB 3355 is part of a package of criminal justice reform bills sponsored by Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas) and the Legislature’s BIPOC Caucus. “This session is about laying the ground work to reimagine public safety,” Bynum said. 

Sources: oregonlegislature.gov, SB3355, wweek.com

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