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Monday, February 7, 2011

Getting it right

Oregon Rep. Lew Frederick's got some great ideas in this bill that he's introducing in the current legislative session. He explains:

It expands access to mental health support for officers involved in incidents in which use of force resulted in serious injury or death.

It mandates testing of officers for controlled substances and steroids immediately following involvement in such incidents.

It calls for immediate investigation of such incidents, overseen by the Department of Justice. This is to address the appearance of conflict of interest where local jurisdictions investigate themselves or their immediate colleagues.

It calls for regular, mandatory psychological evaluations of police officers. This is an attempt to remove the stigma and real or perceived danger of career repercussions attached to seeking assistance. It recognizes that police work is inherently stressful, and that those who take it on should be supported.

Cue the unions: "We can't have this! The world will end!"

Comments (10)

Can I get a witness?

Am I reading this right? The DOJ, which has no experience conducting homicide investigations, will investigate officer-involved shootings? And then the counties will have to repay the DOJ for the cost of the investigations?

Not much of a chance this would pass, even in a decent financial climate.

Sounds reasonable therefore it doesn't stand a chance of passing.

The DOJ, which has no experience conducting homicide investigations, will investigate officer-involved shootings?

Yes, as opposed to the Portland Police Bureau, which has extensive experience whitewashing murder.

There's some very optimistic stuff in that bill. Why didn't they try to get lie detector tests in there too, and make statements by involved officers mandatory regardless of the fifth amendment?

This bill goes right along with all the other proposals regarding altering PERS, etc. Deep down these politicians, many of whom are lawyers, have to know any of this stuff that makes it to the Governor's desk and is signed will later be ruled unconstitutional or a violation of collective bargaining agreements already in place. This is just another "Hey we tried" moment.

You can union hate all you want, but the fact of the matter is police unions like all other unions have the right to bargain collectively over working conditions. Working conditions include such things as drug testing, wages, benefits and retirement. I am in the untenable position of generally despising unions, yet I belong to one. Sometimes they're a necessary evil.

If someone figures police unions are a menace, they need to figure out how to privatize law enforcement. Hey, check out Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, etc. It's already been done there - those are all right to work states, cops there make about 10 bucks and hour and local law enforcement is essentially owned by the highest bidder. New Chief or Sheriff comes in because someone bought/influenced their election/appointment - new Sheriff fires everyone and brings in his guys to do the will of the one who bought them. For those who rant and rave about Dyncorp, Triple Canopy, Xe and so on "private armies" - that's what you have in a lot of the rest of the United States when it comes to law enforcement.

If there are problems with Portland Police, the solutions need to deal with Portland Police instead of painting with such a broad stroke.

My immediate question was how this law interacts with collective bargaining rights. Does it preempt them? Or would its passage simply mean that cities/counties would have to include it as a part of bargaining? Any labor lawyers out there?

EL - There have been issues with the local police union since I moved here in the mid-70s when that piece of work (I'd use other language but it would be ***ed) Stan Peters ran the union. And since the union has a long history of being adamant about protecting the criminals within its ranks, there is no "dealing" with them. They need to be compelled to follow the law.

Most states already have mechanisms for investigating performance issues and questionable killings by local police. Generally, either the state police hold this role or there is a state bureau of investigations that does this. Of course, there currently is no possibility of any unbiased, independent investigations in Oregon and the popo would like to keep it that way.

The Department of Justice does have experience with homicide investigations. One of the functions of its criminal justice division is to assist local prosecutors. The DOJ has on many occasions undertaken homicide investigations for rural counties that don't have the resources to do it themselves. The Criminal Justice Division of DOJ is staffed with a number of career prosecutors most of whom came up through the ranks in county district attorney's offices and are experienced in homicide investigations.

Arne - I would assume the DOJ would not be involved in PPB shootings unless the Multnomah County DA's office requested. And as hell has not frozen over yet (Schrunk will never ask), your comments baffle me.

And by the way, which DOJ are you referring to, Oregon or US?

Lucs - on the flip side you have the union for the Oregon highway patrol, who appears to routinely roll over, take unpaid furlough days, benefit and pay cuts, etc. I believe there is likely a broad spectrum when it comes to union activity/influence. The issue of dealing with local labor organizations needs to be dealt with on a local level, not a statewide level. With all the layers of government the City of Portland and Multnomah County have, are we really saying they can't deal with whatever the problem is/may be, or that they just won't?

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