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Profiling Data: No Change In Over-Representation Of African AmericansAt the June meeting of the Community/Police Relations Committee (CPRC), civilian director of the Police Bureau's Office of Accountability and Professional Standards (OAPS) Leslie Stevens presented statistics showing African American Portlanders are still stopped at a higher rate than their white counterparts. The "Community Relations Report 2009," a slick booklet, contained just two charts related to possible racial profiling. In a city that is 6% black, the data show 12% of those pulled over for traffic stops and 21% of pedestrian/cyclists who are stopped are African Americans. While this is down from previous years at 14% and 24%, it seems officers are not filling out their forms properly. The "unknown" race category for drivers was between 6 and 14% in previous years, in 2009 it was 27%. It's not surprising that the booklet questions the meaning of the data; Stevens was notoriously reluctant to release public information as Director of the Independent Police Review Division from 2005-2008, and in her OAPS job. Chief Mike Reese eliminated Stevens' position shortly after he was promoted.
The other chart in the booklet shows use of force has also continued to be out of line proportionally for African Americans in Portland, hovering at 29% of all force used. But data on searches is all but missing from the report, even though this is where profiling becomes most apparent: once a car is pulled over, the officer can no longer say they don't know what race the person is. If the police then make decisions to search more people of color, and those searches turn up less contraband (as in previous years, about 80% compared to whites), there is a problem.
Portland State University conducted a study on five years of data, concluding "citizen calls for service, neighborhood violent crime and proactive patrol are all interconnected with increased risks of African Americans being stopped in neighborhoods, [which] does not imply that African Americans themselves are more likely to commit crimes given equal circumstances and should be treated with more suspicion" (Oregonian, June 17).
CPRC has continued to discuss concerns around police enforcing immigration law. They also had a discussion of police youth outreach programs. In July, new Assistant Chief Larry O'Dea began an analysis of the Bureau's five-point plan to address Racial Profiling, focusing only on point #1, creating a Bureau that reflects the City's diversity.
The Citizen Review Committee (CRC) presented the final version of its Bias Based Policing report to City Council on June 2. While the report highlighted CRC's concerns about over-use of "mere conversation" and pretext stops by police to engage people of color, these issues were not emphasized by CRC's Mike Bigham and Hank Miggins in their presentation. Portland Copwatch connected their concern that officers use pretexts--minor motor vehicle infractions such as burned tail lights or failure to signal-- to the death of Keaton Otis, shot 23 times at a traffic stop in May (see article).
The CPRC meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 4:30 PM.
PCW raised concerns about a youth camp described by the officers at CPRC at which officers dress in civilian clothes, then arrive in uniform at the end of the process. While that lets kids know that police are people, too, it does not address the reverse problem of police recognizing that people of color, poor/homeless people, and others who experience misconduct because of officer perceptions are "people too" and need to be treated with dignity and respect.
Portland Shootings on the Rise
Portland Copwatch Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability
through citizen action.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.