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Commissioners OK deadly force plan

During the 2007 session, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 111 that requires each Oregon county develop a plan about the use of deadly physical force. Last Wednesday, county commissioners approved such a plan for Columbia County.

In approving the plan, commissioners said the bill is a first attempt at standardizing police response statewide to lethal incidents. They pointed out that the plan does not set the standards for the use of such force, but provides a 'framework' for a consistent response to an incident that 'treats the officer fairly and promotes public confidence in the criminal justice system.'

The county plan was developed by a committee of representatives from the district attorney's and sheriff's office, two police officers from Scappoose, Chief Steve Salle from St. Helens, an Oregon State Police representative, and one citizen. Each city and county law enforcement agency in the county must approve the plan in time to meet the Attorney General's statewide deadline for submitting a final document by May 30.

According to Scappoose Police Chief Doug Greisen, police in the county already have plans and procedures for officers that dictate when and what deadly force is appropriate and lawful, as well as how departments should proceed following an incident, and are already ahead of the new state requirement.

'We each might have some minor changes, but nothing significant that would change the intent of the mandated plan,' Greisen said.

The call for standardization was sparked by critics who have charged that investigations into police use of deadly force have been tainted. Incidents such as the shooting of Kendra James in 2003 and Jahar Perez in 2004 by Portland police, and the fatal shooting of Lukas Glenn by Washington County deputies have been sighted as examples.

The county's plan, now making its way through the approval process calls for:

• Requiring training for police in the use of deadly force, including annual seminars.

• Providing mental health counseling and support for police involved in shootings.

• Requiring at least one police officer from a different agency to investigate the shooting.

• Notifying the district attorney's office, which will have discretion over how to proceed.

• Requiring investigators to debrief officers and then determine whether police followed the deadly-force policies or whether the policies themselves should be amended

• Annual meetings to evaluate whether the plan needs revisions.