PENDLETON – The public’s perception of what law enforcement can do regarding problems with the homeless population is often flawed according to Police Chief Stuart Roberts. He says multiple court rulings have rendered loitering laws unconstitutional.
The city of Pendleton repealed ordinances dealing with sleeping and gathering in public due to such rulings, but failed to pass an ordinance dealing with camping.
“All the ordinances that were repealed were not replaced by anything,” Roberts said. “We have to rely on state statute which is not real strong in this area.”
Police are allowed to remove homeless encampments on public property after providing a 24-hour notice. Roberts said they do this in spite of the additional burden it places on his department. Officers are required to retain and safely store all material taken from the camp for a period of 30 days and attempt to find the owners.
“We don’t build facilities to warehouse stuff that’s been out in nature that’s full of bugs and biohazards and various other things,” he said. In addition, Roberts said after the 30 days has expired, the cost of disposing of unclaimed items is a departmental expense.