DALLAS — During his report to the County Commissioners March 9, Sheriff Mark Garton updated them on bills being considered by state legislators that are troublesome to the law enforcement community.
After sharing a few that would limit the rights of gun owners and reducing allowable actions by law enforcement officers, Commissioner Mike Ainsworth couldn’t hold in his astonishment.
“Who would want to be a cop anymore? They’re taking all your rights away,” Ainsworth said.
Garton said one of the biggest pieces of legislation he and the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association (OSSA) is tracking is House Bill 2002. While some of the bills he discussed were only a couple pages in length, Garton said the word out on the 47-page HB2002 is it’s a reform bill for Measure 11.
Oregon voters approved Measure 11 in 1994 which imposed mandatory sentences on certain crimes with no possibility of reduction in sentence, regardless of good behavior, such as 5 years 10 months for pornographic exploitation of a child to 30 years to life for aggravated murder.
“Measure 11 is a very small portion of the 47 pages,” Garton said. “There are a lot of other things in there.”
Garton said it prohibits an arrest by police for certain crimes, instead forcing them to issue just a citation, including resisting arrest, interfering with a police officer and trespassing.
“A perfect example of how this doesn’t work is if I’m on a scene at domestic (violence call) and there’s a third party that’s interfering, I can’t take that person into custody,” Garton explained. “I could detain them, but if they fought me, I still couldn’t arrest them. I would have to issue a citation for interfering and resisting. It would just be cooperative at that point.”
The bill would also prohibit traffic stops based on certain violations, such as headlight or tail light out, which he called a safety issue.
Garton said HB2002 also appropriates $2.5 million to the Department of Administrative Services, who then gives it to the Northwest Health Foundation, which then funds Reimagine Oregon.
“Reimagine Oregon is a left activist group where defunding police, eliminating qualified immunity, restricting a lot of the things (in these State and House bills troubling the OSSA) is their stated goal on their website,” Garton said. “There are no restrictive stipulations for what that money is for, except that they can’t charge over 25 percent for administrative costs.”
Lastly, HB2002 limits the admission of a person in custody who is showing symptoms of contagious virus or in need of medical or acute psychiatric care. They have to be taken to the nearest facility for help, which is Salem Hospital. Garton asked how he or his staff were to know if someone is contagious or in need of acute medical care?
“Typically, someone is brought into our facility, we evaluate them, deny them entry, say you need to go to the hospital, you get cleared, then you come back. This law could be viewed as once you take them to the hospital, because they had some kind of issue they could never be housed inside the (PCSO) facility,” Garton said.
“There’s a lot of things within this bill that’s bad all over it in terms of law enforcement,” he added. “For the Oregon Sheriff’s Association, 2002 is the big one we’re watching besides Senate Bill 554.”
Senate Bill 554 would allow jurisdictions to place restrictions on where citizens with authorized concealed handgun licenses are allowed, such as school campuses and government buildings
Commissioner Lyle Mordhorst told Garton that the Association of Oregon Counties voted March 8 to oppose SB554.
“And it was a very heated discussion. We value our police and sheriff departments very much,” Mordhorst said. “Take that back to your crew and staff and tell them thank you for everything that you do, and we’ll continue to fight with you on all of these.”
Other bills Garton and the OSSA have their eyes on include:
Senate Bill 604 - Essentially requires all people to apply for a permit to purchase a gun.
House Bill 2510 – Requires firearms be secured. If a firearm is stolen and it is not reported within 72 hours, the owners can be held responsible for anything that stolen gun may do.
House Bill 2928 – Prohibits the use of any kind of chemical irritant, sound device, lighting device or any kind of crowd control device law enforcement can use, other than physical force.
Senate Bill 816 – Anyone who knowingly possesses or discharges a firearm in a school zone commits a Class C Felony, which is defined within 1,000 feet of a school.
“For people in Dallas, you would not be able to drive down Miller Street through a school zone. If you did, that would be a felony. There’s no leeway in this one,” Garton said. “Police are exempt, but (it applies) if you have a concealed handgun license and you possess a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school. People in Fall City, for instance, couldn’t leave their house based on where schools are placed. It covers the whole area.”
County Commission Chair Craig Pope said the challenge to him is that proponents are trying make so many of these bills “permissive.”
“I believe once you start into a pathway of making something permissive and put something in place, then those counties or jurisdictions that use these tools are eventually the case model for those who say we just need to take the permissive piece out now. They can take the permissive piece out of the law and just make it mandatory,” Pope explained.
He added many of these proposals are one-size-fits-all Band Aides for something that is not a problem in Polk County.
“Anything they’re doing that impacts our ability, your ability specifically, to manage the jail and our community corrections program, without ever talking to you or us ever saying look, we have a problem that needs to be resolved, is inappropriate. So, one county’s problem or concern is blanketed across the state,” Pope added.
While many of these proposed bills don’t have a hearing date yet, Garton said the OSSA is doing its best to be at the table when they are discussed.
Garton said a group of about 15 of OSSA members get together to review bills, make suggestions and testify to the Legislature because that’s really all they can do. Garton worried that all of these bills could pass with no issues in the Democrat controlled state Legislature that would change how law enforcement is perceived and take their tools away.
“We are doing everything we can to thread that needle. Because we currently have a seat at the table on some of these things, but only at the request of the people creating these bills. That access could easily be turned off. We’re trying to find that line of let’s make these bad bills less bad. That’s our challenge,” he said.