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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 10 March 2021

SALEM, Ore. — The co-chairs of the Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability Committee of the Racial Justice Council today announced their policy priorities for the 2021 Legislative session. The committee's initial policy recommendations seek to address institutional racism through greater use of restorative justice practices, reduction of unnecessary deportations and family separation, and increased police accountability. These policies are a direct response to the long-overdue national and local uprising for racial justice sparked by the death of George Floyd in 2020. A summary of the policy recommendations from the Criminal Justice Reform & Police Accountability Committee is available here.

“Racial inequality in our public safety system has been hollowing out entire communities and creating generational trauma for too long,” committee co-chair Lamar Wise said. “The disruptions caused by COVID-19 and community-led calls for racial justice have magnified the urgency for action. With leadership from Black community members, the Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability Committee has created a set of policy recommendations  that will make all of us safer by centering those who are most disproportionately harmed by our criminal justice system.”

Widespread racial disparities exist throughout Oregon’s criminal justice system. Black people represent 2.2 percent of Oregon’s population but 9.3 percent of the state’s prison population. Additionally, both ethnic and racial disparities were identified in traffic and pedestrian stop data submitted by the Oregon State Police, according to 2019 reporting from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. A 2016 study from the OCJC also found that Black people in Oregon were convicted of felony drug possession at more than double the rate of white people.

The proposed reforms would accomplish the following:

  • Promote Restorative justice: Encourage greater use of restorative justice practices with funding provided to the Criminal Justice Commission
  • Prevent unnecessary deportations: Make diversion possible for immigrants accused of crime, so they can perform community service, pay restitution and/or receive treatment in their community, rather than automatic deportation and traumatic family separation.
  • Expand police oversight: Authorize the creation of a police oversight agency or board by city and county governments
  • Improve transparency: Improve public access to personnel files for police officers who have been investigated for misconduct
  • Require police identification: Require law enforcement officers to inform a stopped person of reason for the stop and that they have the right to refuse a request to search
  • Ensure informed police searches: Require law enforcement officers to provide name and badge number if the stop doesn’t result in an arrest or citation.

“Our state's legal system wasn’t built to foster justice for all Oregonians.

"Black leaders here and across the country have had to fight time and again for our community’s safety,” said Nkenge Harmon Johnson, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland and member of the Racial Justice Committee. “The Racial Justice Council is the latest example of our leadership in making communities safer for all of us. This policy platform is a significant step toward that goal.”

The Racial Justice Council, convened by Governor Kate Brown in 2020, consists of leaders from Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander and refugee communities charged with advising the Governor on budgetary and policy priorities to ensure they center Oregonians most impacted by racial disparities. The Criminal Justice Reform and Police Accountability Committee is one of six committees tasked with focusing on a range of issues.

“Today, the very systems that are supposed to keep us safe disproportionately oppress and harm Black and brown Oregonians,” said Paul Solomon, committee co-chair. “With these legislative changes, we can address deeply entrenched gaps in the public safety system to bring our state closer to true community safety.”

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