Kirwan asks council to look at gang ordinance

<p>John Kirwan</p>

In an effort to support the Hermiston police department’s suppression of gangs, Hermiston City Councilor John Kirwan has asked the council to look at an ordinance already approved by the city of Boardman.

City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

The ordinance approved by Boardman uses criteria that would identify and list known gang members.

“Hermiston is the largest city in Eastern Oregon and we should be taking the lead in the fight against gangs in our city,” Kirwan said in a written statement. “I believe that a similar ordinance in Hermiston would send a message to the stakeholders that we will not tolerate this in our city any longer.”

The ordinance, No. 1-2013, states an individual could be listed as a “criminal gang affiliate” under specified circumstances. Some of the criteria listed that would qualify a person for the list include admitting membership in a gang, participating in a gang initiation or conspiring to commit a crime for the benefit of the gang. Other criteria, according to the ordinance, consists of a person who has a “criminal gang tattoo,” or appears in a photograph with other people who collectively display criminal gang signs or apparel.

The ordinance authorizes a law enforcement officer to request a person be designated as a “criminal gang affiliate,” according to Boardman documents.

Boardman Chief of Police Rick Stokoe is authorized by the ordinance to review each request, and an appeal process is included. As of Friday, Stokoe said no one has been identified for the list.

“We haven’t designated anybody and I don’t know if or when that is ever going to happen,” Stokoe said. Stokoe said he has received positive feedback from area residents about the Boardman ordinance since it was approved.

“People are happy to see were taking a proactive approach to it,” Stokoe said.

Stokoe also said he supports the city of Hermiston if they were to approve a similar ordinance.

“I think that they need to look at every aspect of it,” Stokoe said. “We have to approach this cautiously … I in no way, shape, or form want to step on anybody’s rights.”

Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said he and Stokoe have a great working relationship.

“I think the intent behind it is good,” Edmiston said, of the ordinance on Jan. 21. “I have concerns with some of the increased scrutiny that’s going to come to a law enforcement agency by having these lists of identified persons.”

Edmiston also emphasized his support for personal liberties.

“I take people’s liberty very seriously,” he said. “I think the debate amongst the council is going to be interesting.”

Former gang task force member Doug Primmer, who currently serves as an investigator with the Oregon Department of Corrections, said a similar ordinance could provide police with a “good tool.”

“I’ve worked with identification and tracking of gang members through the prison system,” Primmer said. “We have problem children that we have no other way of dealing with them. This could provide the police with just one more tool.”

Primmer is also a newly elected member of the Hermiston City Council.

There is no action proposed on the ordinance in the council agenda. For a copy of the agenda, visit city hall at 180 S.E. Second Street.

There is an opportunity for public comment during the council meeting. Residents are asked to keep comments to no more than 10 minutes.

 

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