By BEN BOTKIN
Oregon police officers killed 23 people in the line of duty in 2022, according to the state’s first use-of-force report.
Lawmakers discussed a summary of the report, which is not yet released, on Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The report, compiled by Oregon’s Criminal Justice Commission, doesn’t discuss whether the police use of force was justified or followed established policies.
Instead, the report offers a breakdown of how often police use force, whether it resulted in injury or death and how many police departments in Oregon are complying with a 2021 state law that requires them to submit data about police use-of-force incidents. The data is sent to the Oregon State Police and forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The report shows that Oregon had 58 use-of-force incidents in 2022 and 23 of them – less than half – involved a fatality. The others led to injuries or police officers firing their weapons. Incidents took place in rural and urban areas.
Police use of force has gained national attention with calls for accountability and more transparency in recent years. The 2020 death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, sparked a national reckoning over policing and race.
In Portland, the city settled a federal lawsuit for $250,000 in 2022 following its police bureau’s use of tear gas and other crowd control tactics during the city’s 2020 protests, the Associated Press has reported.
Josephine County deputies and Oregon State troopers in southern Oregon were cleared of wrongdoing after shooting and killing a man at an Interstate 5 rest area in September 2022. In that case, the man fired at officers and shot a woman, according to media reports. Use-of-force incidents encompass a variety of situations. They can involve a fatality, a serious injury to a person or the discharge of a firearm. Ninety percent of the people involved resisted police officers in different ways, including not complying with orders, making threats, using a firearm or fleeing, the report said.
The majority of people involved in the incidents were white men and in 64 percent of the cases, police officers were responding to illegal or suspicious activity. In the other cases, police officers were conducting traffic stops, serving warrants or making other types of calls.
Ninety-six officers were involved in the incidents and seven of them were injured.
Most police and sheriff agencies in Oregon – 92 percent – have complied with the state law’s requirement to report data. That’s 137 police agencies. All large agencies with more than 100 officers reported data.
Kelly Officer, research director for the Oregon Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, told legislators it wasn’t aware of any use-of-force incidents that occurred and were not reported.
State officials are working to get the non-compliant agencies – one dozen – reporting information.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene and the committee’s chairman, said he’s pleased with the high level of compliance in the first year and suggested future reports identify agencies that aren’t complying with the law.