ORCOPS in the mix as the 2017 Oregon Legislative Session Ramps Up

Before the 2017 Oregon Legislative Session opened on February 1, 2017, ORCOPS was hard at work addressing key issues that affect law enforcement officers in Oregon, such as profiling legislation, attacks on PERS benefits, discussions about grand juries, and “best practices” for body worn cameras. As this long 2017 session has ramped up in the past few weeks, our preparation has paid off, with ORCOPS being the “go-to” resource when legislators inquire about how certain public policy changes may affect the working conditions for Oregon’s law enforcement officers.

Last week was a great example of our diligence paying off. Our lobbyists from Prospect PDX were active during hearings on:

SB 496 and SB 505: Grand Jury Recordings
These bills would require recording of all grand jury proceedings. While the defense attorneys and district attorneys are negotiating methods of protecting sensitive witnesses (some law enforcement protections such as those for confidential informants are already included in the measure), ORCOPS was the first organization to bring to the committee’s attention a provision that would have permitted the public release of proceedings dealing with the conduct of a law enforcement officer. For example, if an officer’s use of deadly force in the line of duty is considered by a grand jury, the recording of the proceeding would be subject to public release after the grand jury issues a not true bill. During office meetings as well as to the full committee, ORCOPS stood fast in opposing a carve-out targeting law enforcement officers. (Even as an other law enforcement organizations offered their qualified support to the public release of such materials.) ORCOPS has been defending against this and similar pieces of legislation since the 2015 Legislative Session. We have been working directly with committee members to secure a set of amendments to the measure that will protect officers’ records from public release.

HB 2355: Profiling Data
This bill is the result of a long process that started with HB 2002 in the 2015 session. Since the very beginning of that process, ORCOPS has been intricately involved in ensuring that Oregon’s anti-profiling measures don’t impede law enforcement officers’ ability to do their jobs. ORCOPS maintains constructive, respectful connections with both sides of the aisle and bargained those relationships into a key position on the policymaking Law Enforcement Profiling Work Group. ORCOPS’s selected member has been the only member of the work group representing line officers and deputies. HB 2355 is the culmination of that group. The measure focuses policy developments on training resources and data collection, and is the result of a consensus-based process led by the Attorney General’s office. ORCOPS not only played a role in guiding that policy, but also maintained a close relationship with the interested legislators and the Attorney General herself before providing a nod of approval for the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month.

Protecting Municipal Budgets
Senate Bill 840 would have placed a cap on certain fees that cities receive from utilities, thereby having a detrimental impact on city budgets. While several utilities spoke in favor of the measure, ORCOPS—alongside a number of city government representatives—was the only law enforcement organization to testify against it.

We are also actively monitoring PERS discussions, including Senate Bills 559, 560, and 913. As the largest law enforcement representative on the PERS Coalition, we are advocating tirelessly to ensure our legislators honor the pension promises made to our members. The most popular of these so-called “reform” items include capping final average salary at $100,000; changing the final average salary calculation from a high three-year to a high-five year period; and redirecting employee contributions to IAP accounts to the general pension plan. From the standpoint of our members, all three are “non-starters,” especially given the sweeping, detrimental effect to existing PERS members and future law enforcement officers. The PERS discussions will ramp up over the next two weeks, and we’ll update you as these so-called “PERS reform” bills make their way through committees. Learn more about the real effects of these proposed changes to PERS at keeporegonspromise.org.

Finally, we are actively tracking over 90 Senate and House bills, including proposed legislation on officer involved use of deadly force, issues related to workers compensation benefits, crimes against law enforcement officers, and retirement benefits for officers working at one of Oregon’s universities.

As always, we welcome any feedback from our member organizations about any legislation that may impact law enforcement officers in this State.

Stay safe.

Daryl Turner, President
Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs