Oregon police officers may be getting new training on how to handle possible gun-toting criminals, after a high court ruling in that state in the case of a self-professed gang member, who’s been in and out of jail.
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday, that “police aren’t justified in asking people they stop if they have a weapon — if officers are only asking out of general concern for their own safety.”
The high court threw out an unlawful-weapon conviction of a 19-year-old man– who was under suspicion of jaywalking in Portland—and stopped by an Oregon State Police trooper in 2011.
According to the court’s case summary, the trooper asked Joseph Jimenez if he had any weapons on him, and Jimenez said he had a gun. Without being asked, Jimenez put his arms on the hood of the trooper’s car so he could be handcuffed, according to the Oregonian.
Jimenez was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm in May 2011 and sentenced to probation. But the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed Jimenez’s conviction in 2014, and on Thursday the Supreme Court agreed with that finding.
A Portland police spokesman told the Oregonian, “Officers will routinely inquire about weapons if they are talking to someone they believe may be armed or someone that they may be searching or arresting.”
The state argued — in an effort to uphold Jimenez’s conviction — that during traffic stops related to violations by pedestrians or drivers, “officers should always be allowed to ask if people have weapons because such police work is inherently dangerous.”
The Supreme Court ruled that police can ask, during stops, if pedestrians or drivers are armed only if they have a “good, specific reason that leads them to believe they might be in danger.”
In Jimenez’s case, the trooper testified that he considered the neighborhood he was in to be a high-crime area and also noted that Jimenez was wearing clothing he thought might indicate gang affiliation.
Jimenez admitted he was indeed a gang member, but that was after the trooper inquired about weapons, according to the court’s summary of the case.
Jimenez is back in custody, awaiting trial after police say he took part in a gang-related shootout this past May.
Meantime, the city attorney’s office will review Thursday’s high court decision and determine if any new direction or training needs to be given to officers in light of the ruling, according to the Oregonian.