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Kaylee Sawyer’s family pushes to change Oregon law


Family and advocates for Bend murder victim Kaylee Sawyer testified at the Oregon Legislature in Salem on Friday, seeking a change in state law they and supporters believe would reduce the threat of another violent tragedy like the one that befell her.

The young woman was murdered by former Central Oregon Community College safety officer Edwin Lara two years ago.

Now her family wants to change Oregon law — and the legislation has been named “Kaylee’s Law.”

If passed, it would take steps to prevent any confusion between campus safety officers and police officers.

Kaylee’s stepmother, Crystal Sawyer, testified before lawmakers.

“At the age of 23, Kaylee was walking down the sidewalk at a college campus as the campus employee put her into his college-issued SUV, which had a cage like the ones used to restrain criminals, and internal locks so Kaylee could not escape,” she said.

Now her family, along with Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel and Bend Police Chief Jim Porter, want some things to change.

Porter said issues between Bend Police and COCC Campus Safety have existed since before Kaylee was murdered.

“In 2013 and 2014, we saw change. We saw up militarization and up-policing,” Porter said.

That’s what, if passed, Kaylee’s law would address — insuring a clearer difference between campus safety officers and police.

Kaylee’s father, Jamie Sawyer, also testified, describing his daughter’s murder and describing his reaction when he found out there’d been issues about COCC campus safety before she was killed.

“The most infuriating part of this story came later, when I discovered how preventable this murder should have been. In fact, it should have been impossible for this individual to commit the crimes if proper policies and procedures had been in place,” Sawyer said.

Advocates of Kaylee’s Law want campus safety officers to have less power. That would include: elimination of stop-and-frisk abilities, elimination of blue and red lights on campus safety vehicles, different uniforms from those of Oregon police departments and a requirement to report incidents to the Bend Police Department.

Porter said Bend PD used a criminal analyst to figure out how much unreported crime was happening on campus.

“We just couldn’t depend on what they were saying. And so through open source, she was able to establish between 59 and 69 crimes on the campus that had not been reported to us — that the college had not given us reports of,” Porter said.

Porter also said some reports they did receive were redacted.

Hummel also testified in Salem, saying only Oregon’s seven public universities are permitted to establish their own police force.

COCC disagrees with the district attorney. In a written statement, Ron Paradis, executive director of college relations, issued this statement:

“In recent public statements relating to draft legislation concerning complex campus security issues, DA Hummel has unfortunately chosen to speculate upon claims and issues that are currently framed in pending litigation involving the college. Mr. Hummel is aware that the college is not free to comment upon the evidence related to that litigation.

“That said, the college wishes to be clear that it strongly disputes Mr. Hummel’s characterizations of its Campus Public Safety operations, including any suggestion that the college has ever been in violation of the law. The college believes the legal and practical issues surrounding community college campus security protocols are far more nuanced than his comments suggest.”

COCC has changed a few things, including that officers are no longer allowed to carry handcuffs or conduct traffic stops.

Other issues at play include the amount of training a police officer receives vs. a campus safety officer.

The proposal will come before lawmakers at their session in 2019.

To read the bill and the testimony, click here:

News release issued by Oregon Senate Republicans and Democrats:

LC 644 will help protect students and parents

from the unthinkable

‘Kaylee’s Law’ would require stricter vetting of campus security guards

SALEM – The Sawyer family lost Kaylee when she was killed by a Central Oregon Community College security guard – a man whose job it was to protect her – in the summer of 2016.

Today, the Sawyer family began a journey to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s daughter. Legislative Concept 644 – known as “Kaylee’s Law” – was previewed today before the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives Judiciary Committees. The concept is being introduced at the request of the Sawyer family.

“The Sawyer family lived through a parent’s worst nightmare when their daughter Kaylee was killed in the summer of 2016,” Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said. “If we can do something to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, then we should do it.”

The legislation would clarify the policing limits of college security officers, require uniforms and vehicles look less like those of traditional law enforcement officers and that all campus security vehicles be equipped with GPS and video recording devices. The bill calls for nationwide background checks on all private security or special campus safety officers and removes stop and frisk authority.

“Part of keeping the public safe is that people know when they are dealing with an actual law enforcement officer,” Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, said. “If somebody didn’t go through vigorous training and vetting, they should never be allowed to wear the uniform of a law enforcement officer. That goes for other professionals who also are charged with protecting people’s safety, like campus security personnel.”

Multiple groups – including Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, the Oregon Department of Justice and the Sawyer family – have worked to draft LC 644.

“Our campus security officers are entrusted with the safety of our precious children as they go off to college – most of them living away from home for the first time,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said. “Their job is crucially important, and requires the highest levels of trust, integrity and skill. Campus security officers are not, however, police officers, and should not wear or use the indicia of that office – uniforms, vehicles or other equipment associated with being a police officer. It is my sincere regret that it took the tragic death of Kaylee Sawyer to compel us to address this issue, and while nothing we do can restore the life of this smart, promising young woman, we can still do right in her name.”

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