Oregon Legislative Update: Officer Involved Deadly Force Incidents

In OIS by rapsheet

Oregon State Capitol- Salem, OR

Two proposed bills that deal with officer involved deadly force incidents are currently pending before the Oregon Legislature. Both bills propose significant changes to Oregon law, including mandatory post-incident drug testing for involved officers and investigations into officers’ use of deadly force by the Oregon Department of Justice.

The first bill is House Bill 2951, introduced by Representative Lew Frederick (D-Portland). The second bill is Senate Bill 895, sponsored by the Committee on General Government, Consumer, and Small Business Protection and presented by Senator Chip Shields (D-Portland). The bills appear identical and are currently in committee.

Here are the highlights. The bills:

  • Expand the definition of “involved officer” as used in ORS 181.789 (better known as Senate Bill 111) to include an officer whose use of force caused “serious physical injury” in addition to death. The term “serious physical injury” is not defined.
  • Require the involved officer to attend six sessions with a mental health professional following a deadly force incident, up from two. The involved officer must attend all six sessions, up from one. The PPB would be obligated to pay for all of the sessions.
  • Require mandatory, suspicionless, post-incident drug testing for controlled substances and anabolic steroids for an officer whose use of deadly force resulted in death or serious physical injury. It is unclear who will pay for the testing, but the PPB would likely be responsible for the costs.
  • Require the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate any incident where an officer’s use of deadly force resulted in death or serious physical injury. PPB officers would be unable to participate in the DOJ’s investigation other than as witnesses. The DOJ would have the power to prosecute an involved officer where the DOJ determines that the officer had violated a criminal law. The Multnomah County DA’s office would continue bear the costs of the investigation and prosecution.
  • Require DPSST to ensure that officers receive periodic psychological evaluations as condition of certification. DPSST would also establish rules addressing circumstances where an officer fails to submit or pass a psychological evaluations. The bills fail to establish who will pay for these evaluations.

There are costs associated with the bills — such as suspicionless post-incident drug testing, six mandatory mental health sessions, and periodic psychological evaluations — that will likely make these bills unpopular with the PPB. Certainly, many of these requirements would be unpopular with PPA members if for no other reason than the lack of any empirical data supporting the need for these measures. For instance, there is no data that I have seen supporting the public perception that the PPB is plagued by drug and anabolic steroid use.

Further, it is unclear how the DOJ will be able to afford and manage investigations across the State, let alone in Portland where the PPB and Multnomah County DA may be unhappy with the DOJ’s presence during the aftermath of a deadly force incident. Finally, the political motivations underlying these bills –which are sponsored by Portland politicians — may find little traction with other legislators around the State.

Time will tell whether either of these bills will see the light of day past committee.