As Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called a special legislative session Tuesday to address COVID-19 and police reform, law enforcement leaders say oversight and accountability are firmly in place in Douglas County.
Roseburg Police Chief Gary Klopfenstein said in an email, “The Roseburg Police Department is committed to holding our officers accountable on every level.”
In the wake of calls for police reform across the country, Brown said Tuesday she will convene a special session next week to look at how to improve police accountability following weeks of protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The move comes as prosecutors in Atlanta brought murder charges Wednesday against the white police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks in the back, saying Brooks was not a deadly threat.
Klopfenstein is one of several law enforcement leaders in Douglas County who believe a good foundation already exists to maintain oversight of police officers in Oregon.
Klopfenstein said the department believes that honesty, integrity and justice are the standards and values by which they are judged. He said police officers in Oregon get good training.
“We believe the state of Oregon currently has some of the highest standards for law enforcement in the country and are always willing to participate in thoughtful discussion with the community and our lawmakers regarding our practices,” Klopfenstein said.
Sutherlin Police Chief Troy Mills agrees that Oregon has a good training program for officers.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Mills said. “Oregon is one of the leaders in law enforcement training.”
Winston Police Chief Brandon Sarti said he’s confident that his department holds its officers to a high standard and that the standard is enforced.
“I want to hold police officers accountable, there’s no doubt about that, I think we should and we do,” Sarti said. “In our community and our county, we do.”
One of the claims has been that union contracts make it harder to get rid of a bad officer. Mills said that’s not an issue.
“If an officer gets in trouble, they end up having (the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training) look over the case anyway, through their committee, so their certifications are typically pulled,” Mills said.
Sarti said in Winston, the union contracts have never been an impediment for disciplinary issues.
“If I have a bad apple, I don’t care if they’re in a union contract or not, we would deal with it appropriately,” Sarti said.
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin declined to comment on the special session, which begins next Wednesday in Salem and will have several measures on the agenda addressing police accountability issues.
One bill would ban the use of chokeholds; another would create a statewide police discipline database; one is a measure to have the attorney general lead investigations when police use of force results in death or serious injury; and a bill would make it easier for police officers to be fired if found guilty of misconduct; and another requiring officers to report misconduct of other officers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report