Chief Ferraris Addresses Hate Crimes, Immigration Fears

As I am out and about in the Woodburn community I talk with many people. With the recent election behind us, I've been made aware of two issues that cause me some concern. Those issues in our community have to do with fear about hate crimes and confusion and fear about the role of local police in immigration matters. 


Hate Crimes

Let's talk a bit about hate crimes. Response and prevention of hate crimes are a priority of the Woodburn Police Department, not only because of the devastating impact they have on our communities and families, but those instigating or subscribing to such crimes can promote further hate-based criminal activity and behavior. The damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or monetarily. Hate crimes may effectively intimidate other members of the victim's community, leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected by the law. By making members of minority communities fearful, angry and suspicious of other groups - and the power structure that is supposed to protect them - these incidents can damage the fabric of our society and fragment communities. Be assured the Woodburn Police Department vigorously investigates these crimes and works to hold perpetrators accountable.

What is a Hate Crime? A hate crime occurs when one person intentionally subjects another to offensive physical contact, threatens or inflicts physical injury or threatens or causes damage to the property of another person because of their race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin. A hate crime may also target a person's family member.

The mere mention of a biased remark does not necessarily make an incident bias-motivated, any more than the absence of such a remark makes the incident a non-biased one. Using derogatory or defaming language, although often inappropriate, is probably not unlawful. If a person is a member of a protected class, and feels they have been a victim of intimidation, it is important to understand that law enforcement officers must use probable cause standards to determine if the perpetrator's actions were motivated by bias.

The perception of the victim is not sufficient to meet the burden of proof as required by law. In many cases, non-criminal bias incidents are best resolved in a civil court environment.

Oregon has two primary criminal statutes that address hate crimes. Those statutes are: ORS 166.165 (Intimidation in the First Degree) and ORS 166.155 (Intimidation in the Second Degree).

Anyone believing they have been the victim of a hate crime can report it by calling the Woodburn Police Department at 503-982-2345, using the WPD mobile app or calling 911 if it is an emergency.

Click here to read ORS 166.165. Click here to read ORS 166.155.


The Role of Local Police Regarding Immigration Matters

Fear associated with hate crimes also can manifest itself by community members believing local police are somehow connected to federal immigration authorities. To be clear, enforcement of federal immigration law is the responsibility of the federal government, not local police such as the Woodburn Police Department. Oregon law as set forth in ORS 181A.820 prohibits state and local police from enforcing federal civil immigration law if the person is not involved in criminal activity.

While the Woodburn Police Department cannot interfere with the enforcement of immigration laws by the federal government, Oregon law clearly prohibits local police involvement in federal immigration matters except in a few specific cases where an arrest has been made for a criminal offense and it is necessary to verify the suspect's immigration status; or where a crime is involved and a request to federal immigration authorities for criminal investigation information is made; or when a federal criminal immigration warrant has been issued.

Mutual trust and respect between the community and the police are cornerstones of community policing. Our goal is to ensure that people in our community are not afraid to talk with Woodburn police officers so more crimes are reported, more witnesses come forward, people are more likely to report suspicious activity, hopefully resulting in less people being victimized in our community.

The federal government will do what it is going to do. As far as the Woodburn Police Department is concerned, we are going to follow Oregon law on immigration matters. We are going to continue to work with all members of our community to build trust, including those who may have had past relationship difficulties with the police. We all have to work together under the umbrella of mutual trust and respect to keep our community safe for everyone.

Click here to read ORS 181A.820.

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