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Police Chief’s Departure, Lower Officer Hiring Standards A Concern

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Feb 21, 2020 in Civil Rights

Police at a protestThere were major changes to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) in 2019, a year that concluded with Police Chief Danielle Outlaw leaving to become Police Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia.

In July of last year, Outlaw announced the department would be relaxing its hiring standards to help address a shortage of officers. At that point, there were 128 officer vacancies, as the bureau was not able to fill them as quickly as veterans were retiring, and a wave of retirements is expected in August 2020.

In June 2019, Outlaw said the reason there was a staffing shortage along with problems recruiting and retaining officers was because of intense anti-police sentiment. She said this sentiment seemed to be shared by the City Council.

These changes come amidst more than a year of protests and civil unrest in the city that resulted in multiple lawsuits filed against the PPB for battery and use of excessive force.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU) legal director, Mat dos Santos says the intention of the lawsuits is “to hold the Portland Police Bureau accountable for their violent response to protests in our city.”

Changes in Police Bureau Hiring Standards

Former Police Chief Danielle Outlaw made many changes to hiring qualifications during her two-plus-year tenure to try to encourage more candidates to apply. One of the biggest changes was removing the requirement that potential candidates have a two-year college degree or prior military experience to qualify as an applicant. Now the PPB only requires potential recruits to be 20.5 years old or older and have a GED or high school diploma.

While additional training, along with strenuous background checks and psychological testing is still required, it remains to be seen what the effect of these new standards will have on filling the vacant slots with qualified police officers. According to a Portland news report, 85 percent of last year’s applicants did not pass the background checks, and out 1,075 of candidates who applied in 2018, only 38 remain on the force.

Updated Ruling For Routine Traffic Stops

In addition to these challenges and changes to the PPB, there was also an Oregon Supreme Court ruling that banned a previously accepted police practice of using a traffic stop as justification for questioning motorists as potential suspects. Under this law, officers may no longer pull drivers over for traffic infractions and utilize it as an opportunity to randomly search vehicles for unrelated crimes, such as possession of illegal guns or drugs.

During a routine traffic stop, officers may only ask questions that are “reasonably related” to the reason why the driver was pulled over. For example, a police officer cannot use a routine traffic stop for a broken taillight as a fishing expedition to find evidence of any other crime. There are exceptions, such as if the officer believes his or her life is in danger or has a strong suspicion to believe a crime has been committed.

When to Contact A Lawyer For Help

If a police officer injured you due to excessive force or violated any of your rights as a citizen, we encourage you to contact one of our qualified lawyers at Rizk Law immediately.

Our Portland civil rights lawyers are prepared to analyze your claim, discuss whether any of your civil rights were violated and determine if you may be eligible for compensation for your damages. We offer a free consultation and collect no fees for our services unless we first obtain compensation for you.

Call now for a FREE case evaluation!