PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is trying to permanently get rid of the 48-hour rule, which gives police officers who use deadly force two days before granting interviews.
Wheeler said he will file an ordinance to eliminate the rule at the Aug. 3 city council meeting.
“I oppose the 48-Hour rule. Officers who wrongly use deadly force should no longer wear a badge,” Wheeler said. “The previous council paid a steep price to eliminate the rule and I want it gone forever.”
The mayor argues the change is critical for investigators to find out whether an officer wrongly used deadly force.
Previously, Portland officers had 48 hours to talk with attorneys before having to give interviews to investigators or make public statements. Former Mayor Charlie Hales struck down the rule but last week reports surfaced that police were trying to reinstate the rule, and possibly give officers even more time before interviews.
In March, the Multnomah County District Attorney issued a decision that supports the rule. Rod Underhill said that a 1982 Oregon Supreme Court decision prevents compelled interviews. A subsequent memo from the Oregon Department of Justice acknowledged there are gray areas in the law.
Wheeler challenged those opinions.
“The DA’s interpretation of the law is the best we have at this time, but I am not convinced a case from 1982, which did not deal with the question of concurrent employment and criminal investigations, should be the final word on issues critical to police accountability and public trust today,” said Wheeler.
In response, Underhill said he determined through legal analysis that a criminal investigation is needed before compelling a statement from officers who used deadly force.
"Our need for transparency and expediency should not come at the cost of losing our ability to bring criminal charges in the event that an officer acts outside the law," he said. "My office has been working with, and will continue to work with, our partners and our community members to strike a fair balance between responsible transparency and the rule of law."
If city council approves the ordinance, Oregon courts can appeal the decision before it goes into effect.
Police use of deadly force has made headlines over the past few years, with officers involved in many high-profile cases – some, such as the Philando Castile shooting, were captured on camera – being exonerated.
In Portland, the most recent controversial use of force case involved 17-year-old Quanice Hayes. A grand jury found the officer, Andrew Hearst, justified in using deadly force when he shot and killed Hayes during a burglary investigation.