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Roberts: Salem must stop one-size-fits-all policing

Oregon capitol

PENDLETON, Oregon – In Salem, thousands of bills are in the hopper for the 2019 session of the Oregon Legislature – and many of them impact law enforcement. As in past years, the lawmakers enact changes in how all law enforcement agencies must document their work, and Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts says little thought is given to the smaller, rural departments.

“We’ve got a lot of challenges before us,” he said. “We really have little voice. There’s a lot of – I’m just going to say it – ridiculous bills that are being proposed.”

Roberts spends time in Salem each year, voicing his concerns about proposed legislation that appears to have a big-city bias. He says he’s always asking lawmakers the same question.

“What are the implications for a one- or two-person department versus 1,600,” he asks the senators and representatives. “This cookie-cutter approach with most legislation becomes prohibitive for a lot of agencies to comply.”

One example of laws that overburden smaller agencies is the 2018 session’s new law that legislators believe will prevent police from racial profiling. Starting in July, officers throughout Oregon will be required to report to the state the ethnicity and gender information on every stop they make. Law enforcement officials say that the officers are supposed to fill out that information based on their own perceptions of the people of which they come in contact.

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