People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland & Oregon Profiling: 51 Arrested in "Gang" Sweep; Traffic Data Unchanged; State Updates Portland Solidarity Rally on Black Lives Interrupted by White Man with a Gun
Although it's not 100% clear how many of the people targeted by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB)'s "Operation Safe Spring," were African Americans, it would not be surprising if the Bureau that refers to "black-style gangs" (PPR #61) disproportionately targeted black people. The crackdown, which took place over two weeks in April, supposedly focused on the "worst of the worst; people whose names kept coming back up in attempted murder, assault, and firearms charges" (Oregonian, April 8 and May 7). Interestingly, days after "Safe Spring" was over, Portland Police arrested six members of a white motorcycle "Club" on suspicion of murder (Portland Mercury, May 4). Though the PPB calls the Gypsy Jokers a "gang," the arrests were not considered part of the gang crackdown.
A white man was also the source of violence at a July 7 Portland rally and march against the shootings of African American men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. Despite a turnout of hundreds of protestors dedicated to a peaceful demonstration, Michael Strickland of the YouTube channel "Laughing at Liberals" pulled a gun on activists, claiming he felt threatened. Strickland was arrested, released, but then re-incarcerated on serious weapons charges. This happened at almost the same time a black Afghanistan war veteran shot and killed police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, with the gunman in that case being blown up by a police-operated remote- control bomb robot. Maybe Strickland was unharmed because he didn't fire his weapon-- or maybe his skin color led to his disparate treatment. (PCW does not encourage violence against anyone, and PPB's taking Strickland into custody without shooting him is to be commended-- it's just notably unusual.)
Meanwhile, in early August the PPB quietly posted new data on traffic stops. The 2015 annual report shows once again African Americans are over-represented in stops (13%), while they are searched more often and turn up less contraband (85% as much as whites). The report glosses over the fact that African Americans represent 64% of stops by the "Gang Enforcement Team."
At the state level, there is a new development in the case of Oregon civil rights head Erious Johnson, whose Twitter account was spied on by other members of the Oregon Department of Justice when he used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter (PPR #67). Johnson's lawyer filed a bar complaint alleging "the monitoring of Johnson's tweets probably broke state and federal laws prohibiting the gathering of information about a person's political activity without probable cause that a crime had been committed" (Willamette Week, May 18).
Also statewide, the committee reviewing the implementation of HB 2002, the 2015 law criminalizing police profiling on the basis of race, gender identity, and a number of other characteristics, is looking at ways to strengthen the existing law in the 2017 session. Community members who attended state police training on diversity report there was no focus on profiling.
In Portland, the Human Rights Commission put out a news release on May 4 announcing they were
taking two or three months off to "reorganize." This resulted in the suspension, once again,
of Community/Police Relations Committee meetings, which already had not occurred between
September and March (PPR #68). The HRC, however, has stated they will not meet again
until September, meaning their hiatus will be four months long.
The journal "Injury Prevention" found black and Latino people are injured more frequently by US police than their white counterparts. 55,400 people were injured by police in 2012 (Washington Post, July 27).
In June, the Sentencing Project found that 9% of Oregon's prisoners are African American, even though Oregon's black population is about 2%. The ACLU and Oregon Justice Resource Center are quoted in a June 26 Oregonian article urging changes and drawing attention to implicit and institutional racial bias. The article didn't address how profiling by patrol officers contributes to the imbalance.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.