People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Portland Profiling Data Still Show Disparities, Auditor Reveals Secret "Gang List" Fired County Worker Finds New Jobs, TriMet Reduces Punishments, Oregonian Questions Speed Limits
The Portland Police Bureau's traffic and pedestrian stop data have continuously shown a disproportionate number of African Americans subjected to police scrutiny. The fourth quarter (Q4) 2017 data were no different. As Portland Copwatch (PCW) has noted before (PPR #73 and previously), the extremely low number of pedestrian stops reported-- in this case 50 over three months-- indicates that the PPB is too narrowly defining what a "stop" is. In late March, the City Auditor released two studies on the Gang Enforcement Team (GET), one of which revealed the Bureau is still keeping a "gang list" despite fanfare around scrapping such a list last year (PPR #73). In other profiling news, the Portland Tribune outlined details of the firing of County analyst Amanda Lamb (also PPR #73), and local transit agency TriMet has taken some steps to reduce its penalties.
The Q4 data show that 18% of traffic stops and 26% of pedestrians stopped by police were African American-- in a city that is 6% black. The 26% figure represents 13 of the 50 people stopped on foot. PCW contends that officers who ask people to submit to a voluntary pat-down, ask to see identification, and/or ask them questions even remotely related to police work are able to key that out as a "mere conversation" if there was no suspected criminal activity. This analysis is echoed in the Auditor's report, which also suggests such stops should be reflected in the data. The Bureau told the Training Advisory Council there were 23,047 officer initiated calls in 2017 (see article). It is mind-boggling to think that would only include 192 pedestrian stops in four quarters.
The Auditor's review of GET investigations affirmed that the formal list generated by a now- rescinded Bureau policy was, in fact, ended in 2017. However, there is a second list, which the GET creates on its own with no supervision, no criteria and possibly in violation of the law (and a lawsuit from the early 1990s-- PPR #9). The list names the supposedly "Most Active" gang members, their photos, and a ranking based on a secret scoring system. When the Auditor's office asked to see the data that generated the 2016 list, the Bureau told them they had deleted it. The other audit looked at GET's traffic stops, which unsurprisingly showed 59% of those stopped by GET are African American. While this is lower than the 2015 total of 64% (PPR #69) it is still outrageous. Though they basically got caught profiling and skirting the law, the Chief and the Portland Police Association hedged their critiques, with the former promising to collect data and do more research and the latter blasting the Auditor for trying to force GET to do paperwork instead of being out on the streets harassing young black men. On April 11, Mayor Wheeler stated he suspended use of the secret list.
As for the county analysis, the Tribune had been given a preview of a data system ("dashboard") that Lamb was working on in early 2017, but the information was never published. According to the Trib, "Lamb's real offense seems to be that she left out some information that would have made the disparities seen in the county courts look less severe and that she was too candid with her comments about internal battles over the release of the dashboard" (December 21). Lamb landed on her feet-- working as a Deputy City Auditor after being an analyst at Portland's Independent Police Review for a few months. PCW hopes this means reports and data will be more focused on the kinds of disparities we have been outlining for years, which Ms. Lamb found in the County.
After TriMet was found to be giving out disproportionate exclusions to African Americans-- 36% vs. the overall rate of 26% (PPR #71), they examined ways to reduce disparities. In late February they lowered fines for first-time offenders from $175 to $75, with the option of community service to reduce barriers for people in employment and housing (Tribune, March 6). The new rules begin July 1.
In related news, a Latinx David Douglas School Board member (and director of a political action committee focused on equity) was arrested by Portland Police for theft of services when she forgot her TriMet monthly pass. She was also charged with furnishing false information to the police because she used her known professional name (Ana del Rocio) instead of her legal name (Rosa Valderamma), a cultural misunderstanding that led in her words to "a violent arrest, six hours in jail, missed work... this isn't justice served. This is over-policing" (Oregonian, March 21).
Meanwhile, the often oblivious-to-racial-inequities Oregonian raised a salient point about profiling. In a January 24 editorial, they questioned whether the City's new 20 mile per hour speed limit will be used as another means to over-police African Americans. No public testimony was allowed when the Auditor presented her reports to Council on April 11, but Commissioner Nick Fish expressed a similar concern that day over a new speed limit Council was voting to establish on outer SE Stark.
Find the PPB's stop data here.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.