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Traffic and Pedestrian Stop Data Still Show Bias Against People of Color
Cops Admit to Community/Police Relations Committee: Racism Could Be A Factor

At the June meeting of the Community/Police Relations Committee (CPRC), a small but fundamentally tremendous thing happened: The Portland Police Bureau, presenting the newly released 2010 traffic and pedestrian stop data still showing disproportionate attention to people of color, admitted that racism could be a factor in the numbers. Considering that in 2007-2008, the cops didn't even want to call the official forum established by the City the "Racial Profiling Committee" because it implied they were racist, this is a pretty big deal. Moreover, Sgt. Greg Stewart,* who prepared a powerpoint presentation for the CPRC, said he felt he had to include "racism, institutional racism, and implicit bias" because not to do so would be "intellectually dishonest."

PPB PowerPoint Slide While Stewart predictably focused most of the rest of the slideshow on violent crime and gang activity, he did not object when Portland Copwatch and the Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition for Justice and Police Reform presented findings to the Committee. Those findings: That African Americans continue to be pulled over at twice the rate of their representation in the population-- 11% of stops vs. 6% of Portland's census-- but, more tellingly, they continue to be searched at twice the rate of white motorists. When you look at the number of African Americans and Latinos searched compared to how many are stopped, it is 14.5% and 11.4% respectively, while just 6.5% of white people stopped were searched. Removing non-discretionary "inventory" searches that are required when a car is towed, the proportion remains the same, perhaps a bit worse, with 8.9% of African Americans and 6.2% of Latinos being searched while just 3.5% of whites are searched.

More to the point, those searches prove fruitless more often-- the searches of African American and Latino drivers turns up less than 70% as much contraband (drugs, weapons, alcohol) as searches of white people. In other words, police are over-searching people of color. After the Racial Profiling Committee was disbanded in 2008 (PPR #46), the Bureau promised to work on training to improve the "hit rate." What the data show is that police are indeed being more thoughtful about searching people-- the percentage of people searched after being stopped has gone down by about half-- and they are therefore getting a higher "hit rate," with an average of 22% in 2004 growing to about 29% in 2010. Nonetheless, the disproportionality has remained the same. So, once officers have stopped the cars, even if they didn't know the race of the driver ahead of time, something is then making them search people of color more often, and that still needs to be addressed.

Search Stats

While the proportion of African Americans stopped has slowly inched down from 13% to 11% since 2004, the percentage of "unknown" race recorded has gone up from 4% to 29%. Of the drivers with "known" race, African Americans actually made up nearly 16% of all stops in 2010.

Pedestrian stop data continue to show even more disparity, even though the police can't say that they don't know the person's race when approaching them on foot. 20% of pedestrian/bicycle stops in 2010 were of African Americans, slightly below the average of 22.7% since 2004. Again, people of color are searched at twice the rate of whites-- about 9% of African Americans and 6% of Latinos vs. 3.5 percent of whites, and again, contraband is found about 70% as often.

Meanwhile, CPRC had out-of-the-public eye meetings with trainers from Seattle who are working on unlearning institutional racism classes for public officials, including the police. At their July meeting, CPRC noted that Seattle's program is a good foundation, but police, having their own culture, need a specially tailored training. Once that is running, their plan is still to take five years to train all 900+ members of the PPB, including management. (There are also other unlearning racism efforts underway to complement this program--see article.)

CPRC met in May and June at North Precinct. After low attendance and criticism for asking marginalized communities to addresss issues of police racism on police territory, they held the July meeting at the Miracles Club, an African American owned center for people in recovery, and the August meeting at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization's office in East Portland. At that meeting, presenters cited a survey done at a youth violence summit in April showing that police violence was the most visible form of violence for youth which was the least appropriately addressed.

Profiling statistics related to "Gun Exclusion Zones" and "Illegal Drug Impact Areas"-- see article.

  People's Police Report

September, 2012
Also in PPR #57

Portland Police Shoot Several,
  Chasse Discipline Overturned

  • Other Shootings in Oregon
Excessive Force on May Day 2012
Serious Complaint Uninvestigated
Shooting Report Confirms Concerns
IPR Report Shares Little
New Cameras Monitor Citizens
Homeless Still Targeted
Promotions for Questionable Cops
Candidates on Police Accountability
Stops Data Show Police Bias
  • Taser Lawsuits
  • Gun Exclusions Disproportionate
  • Drug Exclusions Also Disproportionate

Quick Flashes
  • FBI Raids Activists Homes
  • Man in Mental Health Crisis Beaten, Tased
  • Whistle Blower Demoted, Sues
  • Cops Still For Sale In Portland
  • DOJ Says Copwatching Protected Speech
  • Skateboards, PPB Video, Sheriff Guilty

Rapping Back #57

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #57 Table of Contents
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