Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Police Profiling / Oregon Statute HB2002; and my thoughts...

Police ‘profiling’ is the issue du jour in legal circles these days.  Oregon State’s Legislators, knowing little or nothing about the subject of ‘profiling’ – as it relates to the law enforcement mission – have decided a law is required – HB 2002.

We should understand that ‘profiling’ is something that each of us do, almost daily.  It’s a human trait.  You walk down the street.  You size up someone coming toward you, and adjust your behavior accordingly.  That’s ‘profiling.’  For police, ‘profiling’ can become an effective deterrent to crime – not to mention a survival skill that will carry them through their shift.

Now, our Oregon Legislators feel, in a vague sort of way, that ‘profiling’ is probably a naughty thing for police to be doing.  And, in some instances I agree that police can abuse it.  However, when those abuses do occur, they need to be corrected by administrators within the department.  If supervisory personnel are unable to correct the problem, they should be held accountable.

However, our Legislators feel they should codify the ‘profiling’ issue.  And, as they might opine in describing the urgency, ‘Something is better than nothing even if nothing is the result of our attempt at something.’  OK, yes, of course, why didn’t I think of that?

I don’t want your eyes to glaze over, but you really ought to read the following; and attempt to imagine explaining this recently enacted law (without smirking you understand) to a new recruit at the police academy.

This is how our legislators (in their infinite, superior wisdom and expensive, nonetheless questionable, legal training) define profiling and what our law enforcement officers are supposed to comply with:

“Profiling means that a law enforcement agency or a law enforcement officer:
 In conducting a routine or spontaneous investigatory activity or in determining the
scope, substance or duration of the routine or spontaneous investigatory activity, relies on
age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation,
religion, homelessness or mental disability to select an individual for or subject the
individual to the routine or spontaneous investigatory activity, except that using a specific
suspect description related to a criminal incident or suspected criminal activity is not profiling;
 In conducting an investigatory activity in connection with an investigation, relies on
age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation,
religion, homelessness or mental disability as an identifying characteristic or circumstance
of an individual, unless credible information relevant to the locality or time frame
links the individual to an identified criminal incident or criminal activity.
Routine or spontaneous investigatory activity includes an interview, a detention, a
traffic stop, a pedestrian stop, a frisk or other type of bodily search and a search of personal
or real property.”

As you can see by the above wording, the Law does not clearly define what ‘profiling,’ actually is – only painting with a broad brush, hoping to impart the general gist of the idea.  Seems to me that a police officer won’t be able to talk to practically anyone while on duty – at least no one actually needing to be talked to.

In other words, as I read the law, a police officer interviewing an obviously mentally deranged individual, or a wandering homeless person, is involved in ‘profiling’ and should therefore be disciplined for this professional transgression.  Gee, and I always thought that used to be called good police work.

Oh, I suppose the law enforcement officer is free to chit chat with a passing young attractive woman, or in some instances a young attractive man, as long as the person is of an equivalent race and ethnic origin; and, of course, has the same sexual orientation as the officer - and providing said officer’s intentions are strictly social.

So, what does this all mean?  Well, basically, it means that any experienced, savvy cop will not be doing much of anything proactive to protect the public.  Why should they?

PS:  Oh yes, one other thing:  The Oregon Association Chiefs of Police (OACP) actually have endorsed and support the new law on ‘profiling.’  So, what am I to make of that?  Actually, I expect the Chiefs recognize the inanity of the new law – and consider it little more than ‘eye wash’ for the public.

True Nelson
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