News & Politics

Will Oregon work to end racial profiling or support Arpaio-style policing?

Lindsay Schubiner • Jul 10, 2015

Last week, the Oregon Senate passed a bill that will require all Oregon law enforcement agencies to ban racial profiling and profiling based on other protected characteristics. With bipartisan support from both chambers of the Oregon legislature, this bill signals a welcome stand against racially biased policing in the state-the bill is currently waiting for Governor Kate Brown’s signature before it can become law.

Sheriff Arpaio at the June 27, 2015 event hosted by the Oregon Republican Party at the State Capitol

The bill’s passage is particularly notable in the context of concerning trends regarding racial profiling on other fronts. Just last month, the Oregon Republican Party hosted an event featuring Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, a national leader in promoting unconstitutional racial profiling policies.

When signed into law, House Bill 2002 will require all Oregon law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies prohibiting profiling, create a process for complaints of profiling to be filed, and create a database to collect these complaints. Law enforcement agencies will also be required to investigate each complaint.

The bill would protect residents against profiling that targets someone solely based on that individual’s real or perceived age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, homelessness or disability.

The bill’s mandate against profiling based on race, ethnicity, color, national origin, and language could become very relevant if the Oregon Republican Party decides to escalate their support for Sheriff Arpaio and work toward implementing his policies.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, because the Department of Justice found that under Arpaio’s leadership, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) implemented policing practices that violate the constitution and discriminate against individuals based on race, ethnicity and language.

The DOJ reported:

“Based upon our extensive investigation, we find reasonable cause to believe that MCSO engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. Specifically, we find that MCSO… engages in racial profiling of Latinos; unlawfully stops, detains, and arrests Latinos; and unlawfully retaliates against individuals who complain about or criticize MCSO’s policies or practices…

Counter-protester at the June 27th event

“We also find reasonable cause to believe that MCSO operates its jails in a manner that discriminates against its limited English proficient (“LEP”) Latino inmates. Specifically, we find that MCSO… routinely punishes Latino LEP inmates for failing to understand commands given in English and denies them critical services provided to the other inmates…”

Passing House Bill 2002 is an important first step toward eliminating racial bias from policing in Oregon and across the country, and it is heartening to see it pass with bipartisan support. Of course, banning the racial profiling is only the first step toward ending the practice. Oregon is among only 20 states that have not yet barred the practice, but racial profiling continues across the country. We can only hope this is a sign that Oregon legislators will decide to reject Arpaio and the racist policies promoted by the anti-immigrant movement.

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