Portland police officers who cover their name badges during protests will now be more easily identifiable, following the Oregon Legislature’s June 7 passage of House Bill 3355.

The bill, sponsored by the Judiciary Committee at the request of Sen. James Manning (D-Eugene), dictates identification requirements for law enforcement assigned to “crowd management” events in cities with a population over 60,000. (The bill makes an exception for police who are “participating in an undercover law enforcement operation.”)

During protests with over 50 people, police officers must affix their first initial and last name, or a “unique identifier” assigned by the law enforcement agency, to the front and back of their uniform; the name of the law enforcement agency’s jurisdiction and the word “police,” “sheriff” or “trooper” and the front and back of the uniform; and a patch on the officer’s shoulder signifying the law enforcement agency.

Lastly, if the officer is wearing a tactical helmet, they must also affix the unique identifier to the back of the helmet. That’s a requirement especially relevant in Portland, where the city has refused to name the officer who sports a helmet with the number 67 on the back, accused by multiple protesters of using excessive force.

Since June 2020, riot cops in Portland have been allowed to tape their internal city personnel numbers to their uniforms in lieu of a name tag. Police have argued that hiding their names is necessary in order to prevent their homes and families from becoming targets of “doxxing” or other revenge.

The bill requires law enforcement agencies to adopt a policy that prohibits “the intentional obscuring by a law enforcement officer” of any of the required identifiers.

While House Bill 3355 still allows for officers to wear only a unique identifier instead of a name tag, it adds additional safeguards to prevent total anonymity. When it is “practical, safe and tactically feasible,” the officer must provide their name and identification number, or their assigned unique identifier, to a member of the public who requests it.

Or, they can hand the person a business card issued by their law enforcement agency.

If a member of the public requests it, the law enforcement agency must perform an investigation to determine the identity of an officer. The individual would need to submit one of six pieces of information for the agency to investigate: a partial name of the officer, the full or partial badge number or other identifying numbers, a photograph of the officer, a physical description of the officer, a full or partial license plate or other identifying numbers on the police vehicle, or the “location, date and time at which the officer was present.”

Within 14 days, the law enforcement agency must provide the requester with the officer’s name and Department of Public Safety Standards and Training number, or an “explanation of why the identification could not be performed.”

If the requester has the full badge number, the bill says, the agency must provide them with the officer’s name within 14 days of the request.

The bill is one in a package of criminal justice reform bills championed by Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas) and the Legislature’s BIPOC Caucus.

“This session is about laying the groundwork to reimagine public safety,” Bynum said in a statement Tuesday. “Together with Rep. Ron Noble [R-McMinnville], we’ve brought together Republicans and Democrats in collaboration with community partners and stakeholders, to create a culture of accountability so that our police are accountable to themselves and understand that their power is derived from the communities they serve.”

Posted on Willamette Week, June 11, 2021 by Tess Riski