People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
City Delays Release of Profiling Data, Hires New Analyst While
Police Dominate Community Relations Group
Despite months of promising the 2012 and 2013 traffic and pedestrian stops data were ready to be published at any time, the City revealed in mid-November they were hiring a new analyst just to work on those reports. The new job was touted as part of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreement, which calls for the collection and analysis of demographic data on police actions. Because the Mayor insists that the City is already in compliance with most of the Agreement (A HREF="http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/PPR64/doj64.html" article), it was surprising when his police liaison, former officer Deanna Wesson- Mitchell, said "lack of staff hampered bureau efforts to keep the reports updated" (Oregonlive, November 19). The news broke on the day of the monthly meeting of the Community/Police Relations Committee (CPRC), which, despite being created to take on the mantle of the Racial Profiling Committee‹and with two Assistant Chiefs at the table‹ had zero discussion about this development. CPRC has always felt pro-police, but when November's meeting was attended by six cops and just four community members, the imbalance was obvious. Meanwhile, other city-run groups have made some interesting choices about how to name their efforts. Here is quick news on CPRC and profiling:
The stops data analyst is one of six to be hired for the DOJ agreement, with the other five to support the Compliance Officer, develop an outreach plan, manage data, and audit force reports.
Whose Side Are You On? During CPRC's November discussion of then-upcoming protests about the Michael Brown shooting, Chair Sam Sachs (a former corrections officer and current Portland Park Ranger) asked not, how can we join the protest, but rather asked the police, "how can we help?" CPRC member Damon Turner chimed in about meetings in which officers and community members had exchanged phone numbers, presumably so the community can turn in protestors they want arrested. This was quite a contrast from when Officer Tim Evans spoke at the August meeting about his mixed feelings being a police officer and the father of an African American teenager. In December, rather than discuss racial issues or crackdowns on the protests (see article), they invited in Sgt. Bret Barnum, whose hug with an African American child, caught in a photo, went viral. Barnum astutely said the photo doesn't change anything, Michael Brown's death was a tragedy, and there is still a lot of work to do.
Confusing Racial Equity Contracts: The contract to review the progress of CPRC- established institutional racism training was given to consultant Mark Fulop, working with Portland State Univ. students to find a way to evaluate the Bureau's equity efforts. PSU's Dr. Masami Nishishiba will do the actual review once Fulop's work is done and the Bureau's new Equity Manager takes office. (That person's background check was pending in mid-December.)
Also barely mentioned at CPRC: a 16 year old African American in North Portland was tasered by police on September 14 when he and his friends were assumed to be neighborhood troublemakers.
Location, Location, Location: CPRC has continued to meet at the Bureau's Traffic Division, but in 2015 they will use the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) for their "home base."
Easy Changes to Profiling Data Collection? The endless discussion on what data should be included on the computer screen when officers record traffic stops has rested a lot on how complicated the Bureau says it is to change the programming. Yet in early October, the data collection screen was updated to include questions about the mental health status of civilians. It's not clear why this was done without broad community review, when the DOJ Agreement calls for collaboration (and a plan for implementation by December 31, 2013‹ one full year ago).
Wrong Metaphor? In November, Captain Chris Uehara noted it takes time to move a large organization like the Bureau, but he compared it to steering the Titanic, which hit an iceberg and is at the bottom of the ocean.
When neither MariaLisa Johnson nor Patricia Ford attended in November, it was clear CPRC is very male-dominated. The only woman at the table was Officer Jessica Brainard, who joined in October to replace Captain Pat Walsh.
What's in a Name: At the Gang Task Force's September meeting, about 100 people voted to change its name to the "Community Peace Collaborative." This group, dominated by gun-toting officers whose institution has been responsible for the shootings and/or deaths of at least 17 black people just since 2001 (25% of all deadly force incidents) is defined as "A Coalition for Violence Prevention and Achievement" (Skanner, September 22). In August, a City-led campaign to reduce youth violence called itself "Enough is Enough," a slogan used by those protesting Mike Brown's killing.
Hip-Hop Investigation Urges Documentation, Rules: In December, the Independent Police Review released its report on Portland Police presence at hip-hop events (PPR #62), suggesting the police radio in "walk-throughs" of music venues and create a policy on how to use the tactic. The report also highlights community concerns and gentrification issues, but unfortunately relies on the PPB to define what is "gang-related."
No National Data/Black Males More Likely to Die: The New York Times reported that, 20 years after a law intended to collect data on police shootings, "there remains no comprehensive survey of police homicides. The even greater number of police shootings that do not kill, but leave suspects injured, sometimes gravely, is another statistical mystery" (August 31). On October 10, ProPublica published data showing that young black men are 21 times more likely to get killed by police than white youth. The DOJ announced it is starting a national study of police racial bias‹ but only in five selected cities (Oregonian, September 17).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.