COPS ADMIT: Racial Profiling Exists in Portland

On November 20, Chief Kroeker and his "Blue Ribbon Panel" revealed details of their plans to "eradicate racial profling in Portland" (see PPR #21). Portland Police will be collecting data on the perceived race, gender and age of people who they engage in "traffic stops, subject stops and conversations that include police action in the form of a search, citation or arrest" beginning in January. The panel definitively stated that "racial profiling does exist."

Although Kroeker did not personally concede to the reality of racial profiling, he left an opening by telling the Oregonian (November 2): "I have real the impressions are among community people that it does occur and how deep-seated these sentiments are. The natural outcropping [is] putting it to the empirical test."

Kroeker may also have been deliberately leaving his answers open-ended when he talked to the Willamette Week about this issue (September 20). "Does racial profiling exist? That's like saying, 'Does sexual harassment take place?'" If Kroeker believes that women should be submissive, perhaps he doesn't believe sexual harassment takes place, and therefore also denies profiling exists (see p.1).

The Willamette Week also interviewed a number of Portland officers, some of whom vehemently denied the practice of racial profiling. Others, like African-American Officer Larry Anderson, not only confirmed that police sometimes stop people more often because of skin color, but that they themselves had been victims of such stops. Anderson related a story of how a robbery victim incorrectly identified him as the perpetrator when he was on a ride-along as a potential new officer; later on, he was misidentified as a purse-snatcher at the Lloyd Center. Officer Dave Barrios, who has Latino and Native American heritage, is quoted saying he has no doubt that profiling exists "based on the comments he hears in locker rooms, what he sees around him, and stories he hears in the community."

As we reported in the last issue, Hillsboro police began tracking data on traffic stops in May. An Oregonian article states that while only five officers were filing the reports until mid-October, now all fifty-four cops will collect the data (October 16). The Commander in charge of the study is quoted as receiving "no complaints from the dispatch center and one from an officer who was concerned about the data's effectiveness."

The Oregonian article cites a San Diego study showing that African-Americans and Latinos are stopped more frequently than whites and Asian-Americans; the article also lists Seattle Times statistics indicating that 18.6 percent of traffic stops involve African-Americans, although they only make up about 9 percent of the population (about the same proportion as Portland).

To repeat concerns raised in our last issue, recording information about stops may only succeed in police listing their perception of a person's race; however, it is that perception that may prove whether they have a racial bias. We are also concerned that we will hear more arguments (racist themselves) that it is people of color who commit more crimes and that's why police stop them more often. Since the worst crimes occur in corporate board rooms and the upper echelons of the nation's military, where the faces are still predominantly white, we doubt that such wild allegations can be proven.

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