In bipartisan unity, Ore. lawmakers advance 10 police reform bills

The bills include directives on officers' background checks, disciplinary databases and the types of munitions police can use

By Jayati Ramakrishnan

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon legislators passed 10 police accountability bills through the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, marking a major bipartisan step toward law enforcement reform.

The bills include directives for investigating officers’ backgrounds more thoroughly before hiring them, regulating the types of munitions and weapons police can use, creating a public database with information about officers’ misconduct and discipline, and requiring officers to have specific identification on their uniforms when working in a crowd.

In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, police form a perimeter during protests following the Nov. 3 presidential election in Portland, Ore.
In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, police form a perimeter during protests following the Nov. 3 presidential election in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Paula Bronstein, File)

The House Judiciary Committee is chaired by Janelle Bynum, a Clackamas Democrat. Ron Noble, a McMinnville Republican, and Karin Power, a Milwaukie Democrat, are the vice chairs.

The bipartisan efforts were hailed by Republican lawmakers, Gov. Kate Brown and others.

In a statement released shortly after the bills passed through the committee, the House Republican Caucus released a statement applauding the work of the committee.

“I was honored to have been a part of this process, this was a team effort,” Noble said. “I’m also thankful to Chair Bynum for her leadership to achieve true progress with bipartisan partnership.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown attended Tuesday’s session, testifying in support of the bills prior to the vote.

“I’m here tonight simply to encourage you to vote yes,” she sad.

In a statement released later Tuesday evening, Brown cited the Public Safety Training and Standards task force, which she created last summer to review law enforcement training and practices. She said the recommendations of that group were reflected in one of the bills.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt also praised the efforts, calling them “historic.

“I applaud the Oregon legislature for honoring and responding to the community’s demand for deep and transformative change in the relationship between law enforcement and the community they serve,” he said in a statement.

Police accountability was at the top of the agenda for the Legislature’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color Caucus at the beginning of the session.

The caucus introduced, drafted or planned to develop more than 40 pieces of legislation, including Bynum’s proposal to restrict law enforcement’s use of munitions and require thorough background checks and racial bias tests for all police hires.

Both Bynum’s bills passed through the committee on Tuesday.

(c)2021 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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