People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
RACIAL PROFILING PROVEN:
The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) released statistics on May 3 revealing that during the first quarter of 2001, "African Americans were 2.6 times more likely than whites to be stopped by Portland police" (Oregonian, May 4).
Between January 1 and March 31, Portland police stopped 4,849 African Americans, or 130 per 1,000 African American Portland residents. During that same period, 20,086 whites were stopped, or 49 per 1,000 white Portland residents. Both groups were ticketed at about the same rate, 42% and 41%, respectively.
When stopped, African Americans were twice as likely to be searched even though "African Americans were no more likely than whites to have drugs, weapons, alcohol or other contraband."
A major flaw in the statistics is the lack of figures for motorcycle officers, bicycle officers, mounted police and police walking a beat. These personnel do not have immediate access to mobile digital computers. Since Portland's 33 motorcycle officers issue about 50 percent of the bureau's traffic citations, the statistics may still be somewhat inaccurate. However, Chief Kroeker's wait-and-see attitude shows his desire to deny the existence of profiling as long as possible. Instead of demanding immediate cessation of profiling, he is quoted by the Oregonian as saying "You're left with a series of questions that are valid for discussion...We need help from professionals to give some analysis on this."
The PPB Blue Ribbon Panel on Racial Profiling defines racial profiling as "the use of race as the sole basis for justifying traffic stops or other police action" (see PPRs #21-22). The panel's November 2000 Report declares its intention to "help reduce concerns regarding racial profiling," addressing the phenomenon as if it were a deficiency in "customer service" rather than an effect of institutionalized racism. (The term "customer service" is referred to eight times in an eight page report.)
The trustworthiness of such a panel is suspect when one reads: "The Portland Police Bureau is fully diversified at all levels, with deep respect for all people," emphasizing the Bureau's effort "to create a workforce representative of the community it serves." Statistics show that at least 100 non- white officers--10% of the force--and 350 women would have to be hired to approach that reality (See sidebar).
Incidentally, for the same time period covered by the PPB statistics on racial profiling, the number of complaints of "disparate treatment" filed with the police Internal Affiars Division (IAD) jumped from six or 1.94% of all allegations in the first quarter of 2000 to 17 or 6.16% of all allegations in the first quarter of 2001. Disparate treatment is "inappropriate treatment of an individual that is different from the treatment of another because of race, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, economic status, political or religious beliefs, appearance, handicap, etc."
Kroeker's own response to racial profiling is deeply troubling. The same day the statistics were released, he forwarded a memo to the City Council expressing his reaction to a recent PIIAC case. Council had voted to sustain a complaint of "disparate treatment" in an incident where an African American male was stopped while driving a Corvette (detailsPIIAC article). In his memo, Kroeker unilaterally rejected Council's finding, while reiterating how seriously he takes the issue of racial profiling.
Pop-up: In an editorial on May 5, the Oregonian stated, "We must erase the infraction that every day causes police stops of African Americans--and stops their trust in police." They cite Justice Deparment statistics that "Nationally, African Americans have a 70 percent greater likelihood than whites of having contact with police."
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.