Kendra James Case Spurs Legislative, Policy Reviews

[Skanner Grand Jury headline]

Law May Allow Release of Grand Jury Proceedings

Senate Bill 30, which is currently before the Oregon Legislature, if passed would allow a person to petition the circuit court which impaneled a grand jury for the release of records from the grand jury proceeding.

For a period of up to 90 days following the conclusion of the grand jury's investigation, the bill would allow the public to seek the release of the minutes of the proceeding, and reports, affidavits, and testimony received by the grand jury. The judge, however, would have a large amount of discretion whether to allow the release of such records, especially if doing so would prejudice the right of a person to a fair trial, would prevent the arrest of potential defendants, or would significantly damage the lives and reputations of individuals if uncorroborated or incomplete information is released.

Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk has reportedly indicated some support for the bill, accepting the idea that opening up grand jury proceedings might lend them more credibility. This is especially important for cases like the recent Kendra James shooting, where the public needs to be assured of the reliability and legitimacy of the grand jury process.

New Legislation to Limit the Use of Deadly Force by Oregon Police

A bill which passed unanimously in the Oregon House and headed to the Senate, would limit the circumstances in which a police officer can use deadly force. House Bill 3426, introduced by State Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Beaverton, a retired Portland Police Lieutenant, would revise existing Oregon law (ORS 161.239) on the circumstances justifying the use of deadly force to bring it more in line with a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which found that the shooting of an unarmed, fleeing teenage burglar violated his constitutional rights.

The new bill still allows police officers to use deadly force if the officer reasonably believes such force is necessary to protect themselves or another person from deadly force or serious physical injury, but it eliminates the use of deadly force in circumstances involving lower-level felony crimes which do not involve the infliction or threatened/attempted infliction of death or serious physical injury, especially when police are trying to prevent a suspect from fleeing.

The bill is not directly related to the recent fatal shooting of Kendra James by a Portland Police officer, and it is unlikely that the anticipated change in the law would limit an officers' use of deadly force when they believe their life or safety is in danger, as Officer McCollister had testified. But, the more training officers receive on the use of, and limitations on, the use of deadly force, the more situations like Kendra James' death would, hopefully, be avoided.

HB 3426 also clarifies that correction officers cannot use deadly force to prevent an inmate's escape from a minimum-security prison, from custody outside a prison, from a work detail or while being transported.

City, Bureau Create (Dubious) Policy Review Team

The City's answer to address the issues raised by the case was to create a committee to review all police policies. Headed up by Assistant Chief Lynnae Berg, the Community Policing Oriented Review Team (CPORT) listed 30 community members and police officials. Members of all of the Chief's citizen advisory boards were invited, but only the director of the Independent Police Review Divisiončnot the Citizen Review Committee, which is the only body in the city whose function is to review police policies! Other members include recently retired Portland FBI chief Charles Matthews, Lt. Mike Crebs, who took the fall for the terrible police planning that ended up in a melee with protestors on May Day, 2000 (see PPR #20), and Officer Kim Kiest, who was shot by Stephen Dons in a botched drug raid in 1998 (see PPR #14).

 

People's Police Report #30 Table of Contents
People's Police Report Index Page
Return to Copwatch home page