People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
New Data on Racial Profiling in Portland: Still Showing Bias
In January, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) released the traffic and pedestrian stop data for 2013 (and some for 2012) and... it doesn't look good for them. Although one of the explicit roles for the Community/Police Relations Committee (CPRC) is to address
Racial Profiling, their thinning membership barely talked about what the numbers meant, except to claim they don't prove profiling exists. That same month, the PPB announced their search for an Equity Manager landed them not with an expert in police oversight and race relations, but rather Elle Weatheroy, the sister and daughter of Portland Police officers, whose most recent job has been working for child welfare.
The new statistics show that in 2013, about 4% of white people stopped in their cars were searched, while over 11% of African Americans were searched-- meaning a black driver is about 3 times more likely to be searched. While this is a slight improvement over 2011 (when African Americans were searched 3.5 times as often--PPR #60), it's still outrageous. 6.5% of Latinos were searched, about 1.5 times as often as whites.
The "hit rate," or how often contraband is found, should be the same across all race categories (as noted by the Bureau's report). However, as with every previous year, African Americans were found with contraband less often than their white counterparts, likely the result of over-searching African Americans. The gap is narrowing since 2010-- when contraband was found about 71% as often on whites as on people of color, now it is about 86%-- but this is at or below where numbers were from 2006- 2009, so it's not necessarily an "improvement" or a trend. It's also telling that the rate at which African Americans consent to be searched is 7.7%, versus 2.1% for whites. The key point to consider here is that officers say they "don't know the race of the driver when they pull them over," but they certainly do before they make the decision to search.
The report shows that 12.8% of people stopped in traffic in Portland were African American in 2013, a city which is 6% black. Though down from 13.1% in 2012, even if the drop were statistically significant (which it is not), 12.8% is the running average for the years 2004-2013, meaning there has been no real shift in the numbers.
One thing that's missing is last year's analysis breaking out the Gang Enforcement Team (GET)'s stops, which were off the charts in terms of the imbalance of stops of African Americans (38% of their stops and 26.7% of their searches were of African Americans). The upside is there's not a section (like there was for 2011) trying to explain the apparent bias by listing the number of gang crimes in Portland.
The Bureau's data show they turn up drugs in 1.4% of searches of white drivers, but only 0.7% of African American drivers. This information should be of interest to those who claim the disparities are because "black people commit more crimes."
Even though the Department of Justice (DOJ) suggested in their letter of findings regarding the PPB's excessive use of force that every stop be recorded regardless of whether it was a "mere conversation" or an arrest, the Bureau refused to do so. Rather, they are allowing officers to delete pedestrian stop information screens if they decide the stop was a "mere conversation." According to the report, 4303 stops were not entered due to being "mere conversation," leaving only 607 pedestrian stops recorded in 2013 (and 1209 in 2012), about 1/10 as many as reported in 2006- 2010. Of the remaining pedestrian stops, 17% (19% in 2012) were of African Americans. This is lower than the average of 22% from 2006-2010-- but still means African Americans are stopped on the street three times more often than whites. In these scenarios, the police can't claim they didn't know the race of the person they were "pulling over."
Portland Copwatch (PCW) continues to urge CPRC to also look at the data on Use of Force, which show that in 2014, 27% of people who had force used against them in Portland were African American.
Office of Equity and Human Rights Director Dante James came to the March meeting to call out CPRC for its lackluster performance, urging them to provide "outcomes" as evidence it's worth his office funding them. Since their work on coordinating institutional racism training to all police stalled out at the Sergeant level in 2013 (PPR #62), and since Park Ranger/Human Rights Commissioner Sam Sachs took over as chair, they seem to be treading water. Several members have left. Maria Lisa Johnson, who went from being a staff person to a CPRC "at large" member, tendered her resignation at the March meeting. Patricia Ford hasn't been at a single meeting in 2015. Police continue to outnumber community members at the table. If it weren't for the profiling data and the CPRC's role in the DOJ Agreement* the group's tactic of eating food with cops and complimenting their outreach efforts rather than dealing with issues head-on would be a good excuse to disband it.
The group did discuss the trial of Thai Gurule, the African American teenager who was beaten and tasered by PPB officers last September (article). While the case clearly bothered some CPRC members, particularly the judge calling the force excessive and the officers untrustworthy, Chair Sachs stood up for Officer Betsy Hornstein, saying he'd worked with her as a Park Ranger and he didn't believe she could do any wrong. The Bureau members stayed silent, citing an ongoing investigation. CPRC didn't discuss the February incident where an African American man allegedly shot at police and committed suicide after police surrounded and fired weapons at him (article).
Though they spent about half an hour with Sgt. Greg Stewart on the profiling statistics in January, their follow-up discussion in February barely lasted 10 minutes and didn't push on the issues PCW raised in its analysis.
January marked the first meeting where Chief Larry O'Dea was no longer a member of the committee. In February, CPRC got a brief update on the Bureau's equity plan from consultant Mark Fulop. They heard directly from Ms. Weatheroy in March, but she did not make it clear how much of her job is to focus on how the cops treat the community versus internal issues. The April meeting, like January-March, was held at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) headquarters, and was designed as a public forum. A handful of IRCO staffers attended and spoke of how police handcuffing African men in front of their wives and children has led to family dissolution.
In early March, CPRC members Sachs and Assistant Chief Mike Crebs spoke at a "Race Talks" forum, where Dan Handelman from PCW also was on the panel. The event, held at Roosevelt High School, had a larger turnout of police than of community members. So when Handelman reported on the profiling data, there was not much of a response from the audience.
Find the 2013/2012 data at www.portlandoregon.gov/police/articl e/514465.
*To analyze compliance with the 2009 Plan to Address Racial Profiling [paragraph 146d]).
There were no search rates or "hit rates" given on pedestrian stops for 2011-2013.
The 2014 report on Portland's Gun Exclusion Zones, due out last fall, has been repeatedly delayed-- perhaps indefinitely after two of the oversight committee's three civilian members quit in March. Past reports have repeatedly shown wildly disparate enforcement on African Americans (about 85% of those excluded--PPR #61).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.