The City of Portland’s dream to remove police officer oversight of automated traffic cameras took a big step closer to reality this week.
House Bill 4105, which would allow non-police bureau staff to review and process traffic camera images and citations, passed the Oregon House by a vote of 32 to 23 on Tuesday. The floor vote followed a 4-3 party-line vote in support of the bill from members of the House Rules Committee on February 8th. All four Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the bill, while the three Republicans voted against it.
The full House vote was less partisan with two Republicans — Representatives Greg Smith (R-Eastern Oregon) and James Hieb (R-Canby/Happy Valley) — joining 30 Democrats to pass the bill. Five Democrats voted against the bill including Representatives Paul Evans (D-Monmouth), Chris Hoy (D-Salem), Mark Meek (D-Clackamas County), Courtney Neron (Washington County/Wilsonville), and Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie).
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is the bill’s primary backer. They’ve become frustrated with a major bottleneck around processing camera citations due in large part to police staffing issues. They also believe armed police officers sitting at a desk looking at images is not the most effective use of their time.
HB 4105 would give cities the option to appoint a non-police “duly authorized traffic enforcement agent” to review camera photos and issue citations. These individuals would be trained, employed, and sworn-in by a non-police agency. In the case of Portland, the transportation bureau already does this with parking enforcement officers. The original bill required these traffic agents to be sworn-in by a law enforcement agency. The amended bill passed this week included language to allow for “a governing body of an incorporated city” to train and appoint the agents.
“The highest and best use of our police officers is public safety and it is not, I would argue, triple-checking photo radar cameras.”
— Barbara Smith-Warner, House Rules Committee chair
That change doesn’t sit well with Rules Committee member Kim Wallan, a Republican who represents Medford. At last week’s work session she said a citation for a moving violation, like speeding or red light running, is much different than a parking ticket. “That to me requires a police officer,” Wallan said. She also expressed a concern that the new traffic agents would not be trained. “I can’t tell you how many bills we’ve heard about how we need better training [of police], so this is untrained people, and now they’re not even going to be employed by the police department for moving violations? I just have so many problems with that. So I will be voting no on the whole thing.”
The agents would be trained so it’s unclear why Rep. Wallan believes otherwise. The text of the bill clearly states that traffic agents would have, “completed all necessary technical, administrative and other training to review photographs and issue citations.”
At the meeting last week, PBOT Safety Division Manager Dana Dickman responded to Rep. Wallan and clarified that these new traffic agents will receive additional training for dealing with court cases and sensitive DMV data. “The reason we differentiate between these speeding tickets and red light violations [captured by cameras] is because there isn’t an interaction. There isn’t a stop. Even though it is a moving violation it is a photographic record.”
Rules Committee Chair Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, who disclosed her spousal relationship with PBOT Director Chris Warner prior to voting at last week’s work session, is a major backer of HB 4105. She likened one its goals to a tobacco tax. “Part of the incentive is to try to get people to change their behavior,” she said. Rep. Smith-Warner also thinks police personnel could be put to better use elsewhere. “The highest and best use of our police officers is public safety and it is not, I would argue, triple-checking photo radar cameras. This is something that can and should be done by trained and sworn employees of these [non-police] departments.”
The bill will now have to pass through the Senate before it becomes law. Stay tuned for updates.
If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.
I don’t understand why the repubs would vote against this, other than they want to see portlanders to continue to suffer from traffic violence.
Yeah it’s pretty gross to see partisanship like this. I think the fact that it’s coming from Portland probably makes some folks just reflexively skeptical. And obviously it can be viewed as “anti police” especially when mixed w its Portland origins. Says a lot that Rep. Wallan made a big deal about opposing it and her main contention (that the agents would be “untrained”) was completely inaccurate.
They don’t want a functional state government. They don’t want a government that can fine or tax “regular people” (ie: people that look like them). The status quo is great for them. Cops don’t pull them over for motor vehicle crimes. An effective and extensive camera system will force them to follow the law, and they hate that idea.
The biggest problem republicans have with this bill is that cameras don’t discriminate based on race. They want to be able to speed and use their whiteness to get away with it while saddling BIPOC folks with speed tickets.
They also know that the majority of police work can be done by people without guns and once the genie is out of the bottle, its never going back in.
That is a ridiculous assertion.
I’m open to other guesses but its hard to see a reason that the party of ‘law and order’ is so opposed to this evidence-based method for reducing violations of the law.
It’s also extremely cynical on their part to try and conflate the public’s demand for better police training and accountability with this ploy to keep automated traffic enforcement expensive and rare.
I’m not going to defend Republicans, nor will I try to pretend to understand what they’re thinking. I was objecting to your use of the most inflammatory tribalistic rhetoric you could find rather than try to actually understand a position you disagree with and make a substantial critique of it.
You can call it whatever you want, its the truth. I don’t buy the whole ‘we need to pretend the GOP isn’t run by monsters so we don’t hurt their feelings’ thing. It’s a party that has centered itself on white supremacy and this is just how that core value is presenting itself on this issue.
Whole books have been written about how armed law enforcement of traffic violations is bias towards low-income people and people of color. There are lots of articles that prove that speed cameras lower vehicular violence.
Maybe, instead of me trying to ‘understand’ their nonsensical position, the republicans should be outlining why the status quo is preferable? Trying to understand their position is futile because they wont be honest about it. They dress up their real reasoning with window dressing nonsense like pretending to care about police accountability or training.
With all the evidence that automated traffic enforcement work, and all the evidence that the status quo is both expensive and produces extremely racially disparate outcomes, the only reason I can see someone wanting the status quo is because they value either vehicular violence or the racist outcomes. Maybe republicans just like people dying on the roads?
I used to believe in the “Honorable Opposition”. IE – I used to believe we wanted the same things and just disagreed on means.
I’ve lost that youthful naivete.
More extremist tribal venom. It’s really corrosive to the sort of discussion most of us are trying to have here.
The complaining about ‘tribalism’ is so silly. We are talking about a political party. It literally exists to create a ‘tribe’ of like-minded people with shared goals. It’s not like anyone has to be part of that group. The head of the GOP tried to literally overthrow the US government. It says something about folks who watched the last five years and continue to be part of that.
I’m just speaking the truth. Pretending that conservatives are acting in good faith is getting us nowhere. This was a party line vote in committee and a nearly party line vote on the House floor for a piece of legislation that would objectively make our roads safer. Republicans even have a chance to write a vote rationalization and have it published on the bill leg page, and they didn’t. What else am I supposed to make of their tribal line vote?
Again, if they want to explain this party line vote against a traffic safety bill, they can. Absent of that, I assume they voted no because they like the racially disparate status quo. Transportation safety shouldn’t be partisan, but it obviously is.
There was a time when decent human beings could agree to disagree on policy, have a beer together, listen to one another, and learn the art of compromise without labeling everyone as a tribalist who are guilty by association (I can fall into the same trap at times). Life is boring when you only associate with or listen to like minded people all the time. It’s called the echo chamber.
Yes, yes, of course you are. Republicans oppose traffic cameras because cameras aren’t racist enough, and like to see people die on the roads.
Just some hard truths about people who are less than human because they vote for the wrong party.
This is sarcasm, right?
I was hoping that would be obvious!
***[Moderator: Cmh, Watts, You are both important contributors to the comments section, and I think you both have said your piece in this thread. I’m ending it here. Cmh, your latest comment (deleted) was a personal attack.]***
Since the legislators who oppose it have chosen to lie about why they’re opposing it (the bill they’re voting on requires the staff to be trained, they’ve been told in open testimony that they’ll be trained, and they say they oppose it because the staff won’t be trained) then we can only speculate. cmh’s proposal certainly seems like speculation with a lot of circumstantial evidence in its favor.
Legislators who oppose it are free to clear up the misunderstanding by explaining why they actually do oppose it.
When I comment on BP my eyes are wide open understanding that BP commenters are probably close to 99% on the woke progressive side of politics. But the fact so many of you downright dismiss any conservative thought or idea is sad. I don’t hate any of you but unfortunately many appear to hate Republicans or any notion of conservative thought. Too bad the days of having a constructive dialog on the issues of law enforcement & safety have sailed into the sunset.
You want to engage in constructive dialogue? OK.
Why do you oppose this bill? Or, if you don’t oppose this bill, why do you think the Oregon legislators who oppose this bill did so? What’s the “conservative” position on wasting police time with paperwork? I have yet to hear any sort of coherent answer.
Yeah, I’d love to hear why police officers are the only people who should be looking at the photos and sending out tickets! It seems to me that they’d be put to better use preventing murders, or at least solving the ones that happen.
Fuzzy Blue Line,
From my perspective, one way to start and maintain a constructive dialogue is to refrain from using broad-brush labels like “woke progressive” and from making broad assumptions about what others think. I really want this space to have a wide range of thought, but I really don’t like labels of any kind. I try to see each person as a unique set of beliefs and perspectives and meet them where they are and respect where they are and go from there. Or if I don’t respect where they are and/or they are clearly not in it to be productive, I will often just not engage with them at all.
The bigger frustration lies in the fact that 90% or 95% or whatever% of the BP comments dismiss any sort of constructive dialog coming from a conservative viewpoint. You dislike labels Jonathan but if you mention being a R on BP then almost every BP reader dismisses you as a Trump nutjob before the substance of the argument is even made.
For the record I’m for removing law enforcement from photo enforcement duties. What I’m not for is removing the physical presence of law enforcement altogether which has been supported by several Oregon & Portland elected officials to “solve” perceptions or misconceptions of police to be replaced by a non-violent citizen safety force or whatever else we’re calling it. I believe the best way to restore transportation safety in our community is by employing BOTH increased automated enforcement AND uniformed law enforcement upholding our traffic laws.
What “constructive” viewpoint is being missed here exactly? Wallan said that she wanted cops to issue traffic tickets but didn’t state why and then lied about the non-DPSST ticket issuer being trained. Not much to respond to there.
Congratulations! You support the same thing as the Democrats who proposed this bill! It sounds like you disagree with the republicans who voted against this bill. Maybe you aren’t a republican after all?
So all Ds and Rs have to agree 100% with each other in their respective parties all the time?
I’m an Independent and sometimes I agree with the Ds and sometimes with the Rs . . . please do say what that makes me? Confused? Out of touch?
Or is it that I should have to chose one side or the other as those are the only options as according to CMH89?
There’s no room for people like you in our modern political landscape. Pick a side, attack the other every chance you get. Tribe before country.
You’ll be called the “eNlIgHtEnEd CeNtRiSt”!
cmh89 beat me to it, basically.
This is a good bill that will improve traffic safety in Oregon. With regard to citations given at traffic stops, one could make the argument that the police need to be the ones to give those in case the driver attempts to flee or otherwise would endanger safety. But for the review of camera-issued citations, there’s no reason at all the police need to be the ones involved. Get this out of their hands.
There are people who are against increased automated enforcement due to the fact that police have to manually review them, and many people in Portland simply don’t trust the police (I offer no opinion as to whether I do or not). This removes that issue of lack of trust, and thus will make it easier to install additional traffic cameras, which are great at deterring speeding and other bad driving habits.
Fingers crossed for quick passage and implementation. Any idea how the PPB union feels about this?
Portland police get overtime pay for this work, so I have a guess.
Great, now do abandoned auto VIN inspections next.
Seriously, VIN check everything! Hire a parking officer that just checks questionable vehicles. The city gets it’s own “Tow Force” and towing lot, as this will hopefully spare ordinary citizens from getting burnt by spendy predatory towing bills. Street racing? Towed & impounded. Randomly abandoned/stolen? Towed & impounded. No plates or registration? Towed & impounded. Stripped of parts and half burnt? Towed & impounded. This would be a quick way to clean things up, and prevent even more vehicular violence through stolen & uninsured vehicles & motorists.
This is a great idea! Unfortunately, I imagine all the well connected and lobbyist rich transportation non-profits (the ones that signed that recent inane letter of protest against Wheeler’s emergency homeless order about not camping alongside dangerous streets ) would oppose something common sensical like this. Maybe once we get a different commissioner in charge of PBOT something like this could actually happen.
Every now and then, some sensible legislation makes it further along, and I hope this one gets passed and signed into law soon. We need it.
This is a great step forward. It’s not an overly complicated subject for staff to be trained on.
Heck, most police don’t have college degrees yet get to make life and death decisions – compared to nurses and doctors who have decades of education and training and oaths of “do no harm.”
Also, the docs and nurses can be assaulted but, unlike police, don’t get the benefit of the assailant facing harsher charges.
Remember for traffic camera citations to be equitable everyone needs to have license plates and current registration. Yet we don’t enforce those laws in Portland because they are inequitable. Hmmm??
This is the first step. If we create an environment where local law enforcement budgets are at least partially funded by this source, there will be incentive for police to enforce the license plate issues we are seeing all over town.
And when it turns out only wealthier people can afford those fees, the idea will be scrapped because it unfairly targets poorer people.
There does need to be an adjustment of how fines work. Like, say, the fine is adjusted to 5% percentage of your income rather than a flat fee. So if your income is like $2500 a month the ticket would be $125, but someone making $8000 a month would have to pay $400.
The problem is that our politicians direct and the local non-profits lobby the police from enforcement of our laws regarding license plates and registration. PBOT has stopped responding to reports of cars parked without registration. So only people that follow the law will be caught by the enforcement cameras. How is this equitable? Please don’t say get the cameras up and running and then start the license plate enforcement. It needs to be done simultaneously.
The claims about racism and republicans below are all hilariously misguided. The opposition to this bill comes from police associations. Just like the proverbial union electricians who won’t let non-members screw in their own light bulbs, police unions see this bill as encroaching on their turf.
Looks like this passed!