How Oregon Leads the Police Discipline Field

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Oregon’s top police discipline committee last month recommended disciplining officers for infractions that wouldn’t even trigger a state review in Minnesota, such as disorderly conduct and improper handling of evidence, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports in the fourth in a series on police discipline. The Oregon panel updates its conduct rules regularly to stay abreast of changes in society and the law, while Minnesota’s code has scarcely changed in two decades. The presence of the public at their deliberations — including journalists — underscores the robust sense of accountability that runs through Oregon’s approach to police conduct.

Oregon’s Public Safety Standards and Training Department has earned national recognition for holding law enforcement officers accountable. Oregon is one of five states promoted as a model for professional standards by the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, along with Arizona, Idaho, Florida and Missouri. While no system is perfect, Oregon shows how a state licensing regime can improve public confidence in the judgment and “moral fitness” of officers, say Roger Goldman, an authority on police licensing at the St. Louis University School of Law. Oregon could offer lessons for Minnesota, where some legislators are considering changes to police oversight. Minnesota has one of the lowest revocation rates in the country when it comes to law enforcement licenses. In Oregon, “We aren’t out there trying to catch cops,” said the agency’s Eriks Gabliks. “We want to make sure they are above reproach and the best of the best.”

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