Governor signs bill aimed at reducing racial profiling

A new bill signed by the governor could mean big changes for the prosecution of drug possession charges.

House Bill 2355 is essentially in two parts.

The law makes ‘useable’ amounts of drugs such as meth, heroin, cocaine and some other street drugs a misdemeanor first time offenders.

The law will also create new requirements for law enforcement which proponents hope will reduce racial profiling.

Officers would need more explanation for pulling someone over.

That way it would be clear someone isn’t being targeted for their race or immigration status.

“I hope that it creates more dialogue between us and law enforcement, “Unite Oregon’s Nichte Verdugo.

Nicthe Verdugo is with Unite Oregon.

It’s a Rogue Valley organization that focuses on racial and economic issues.

It’s also the organization that proposed House Bill 2355.

“We really do honor the work that law enforcement does,” Verdugo said.

However, Unite Oregon wants to make sure nobody is targeted by police for their race, immigration status or gender identity.

“It will hold them accountable and it will create that transparency that a local community needs to see and feel to be able to reach out to them again when they need it the most,” Verdugo said.

Lieutenant Kerry Curtis with the Medford Police Department says he doesn’t think the bill will change much for local law enforcement.

“Those changes they’re not so far fetched that it’s unreasonable for us to do that. Other agencies are already doing that. We’ll fall right in line with that we’re required by state law to do,” Lt. Kerry Curtis.

He says MPD prides itself on treating people fairly and they already have strict policies against racial bias-based policing.

House Bill 2355 will require all Oregon state law enforcement agencies to collect data on each officer initiated pedestrian and traffic stop, looking for potential profiling red flags.

“We really want to create the collaboration – that’s really key – between community members and our law enforcement department,” Verdugo said.

Verdugo is hopeful that policies like that will create safe spaces in the community and across the state.

The data collected will be reviewed by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission by July 1st of 2020 and then every year.

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