By State Representative Rob Nosse
With the speed of change in politics and events in general these days it can be a little tricky to write a column a few weeks in advance of publishing.
I had originally planned to talk about how the Republican stalling/stalemate ended on April 15 and the bills we had started passing again without the Republicans insisting that every bill be read line for line word for word on the House Floor.
Reading of the bills aloud is a provision of the state’s constitution that has routinely been suspended in light of photocopying technology.
I was also going to share how the third COVID-19 outbreak in the Oregon Legislature caused us to delay floor session and not meet for another week, until April 26.
Then the announcement of one of the most important racial justice cases in the recent history of our country came. I am not sure if it was planned this way or the universe allowed for a symbolic and important coincidence, but the Oregon House was preparing to consider and pass several police accountability and policing reform bills during the announcement of the results of the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
It is hard to put into words how I felt when I heard the result of the trial. It almost feels like I cannot admit I was relieved. Imagine the state of the country and our city and the message it would have sent had Derek Chauvin not been convicted for murder.
While this verdict is a step toward justice in this particular case, it will not bring back George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, or any of the many Black men, women, and children who have lost their lives at the hands of police.
In the year since Floyd’s murder, communities across the globe, including this one have risen up to demand transformation and justice from policy makers and lawmakers, to demand changes that will prevent more lives from being taken particularly from people of color at the hands of the police.
In Oregon, elected leaders have been working hard to examine policing practices that are racist and outdated or don’t contribute to safety and accountability so the police will truly keep all of our communities safe.
Here are just a couple of the bills that should have passed by the time you read this.
HB 2513: Requires officers to be trained in CPR and first aid;
HB 2929: Expands officers’ duty to report violations and misconduct;
HB 2936: Requires background checks into whether officers have membership in hate groups;
HB 3059: Removes the requirement that police officers go into unlawful assemblies and arrest those who do not disperse; and
HB 3355: Specifies which identification is needed on officers’ uniforms.
Many people of color and community leaders concerned about policing have been advocating for these changes, in some cases decades. It is part of the tragedy of George Floyd’s murder in that it took his murder to create the political space for these changes to be made.
While this verdict is absolutely a step in the right direction, police violence and brutality are still things we see every day inflicted onto Black Americans.
It is hard for me to imagine the fear and pain that is re-triggered for Black Americans nearly every day as news breaks of another Black person dying at the hands of police somewhere in the US – which is one just another example of white privilege.
It is unacceptable for Black Americans to have to live with this trauma day in and day out. There must be changes in the way police officers conduct business, and with the way we view policing, to help us heal this trauma, because at the end of the day, police are supposed to protect all of us, regardless of who we are.
I was excited to join my colleagues in passing strong police reform bills with my colleagues this legislative session, and it is imperative that other states do the same.
Today and every day, Black Lives Matter.