People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
State Profiling Group Gets Extension, Attorney General Spying
Investigation Finds Cultural Ignorance
The Oregon Law Enforcement Profiling Work Group, created to advise implementation of the 2015 state bill banning police profiling (HB 2002), had its work extended to the end of 2016 by a February bill passed in the Legislature. In April, the scandal involving criminal investigations of people using the hashtag "#BlackLivesMatter" by Oregon's Justice Department (state DOJ) was blamed on cultural ignorance--mistaking, for example, the logo of the rap group Public Enemy as a threat to police. Paperwork revealed the state told investigators to "be creative" (ORS 181.575) to access information that may violate the law prohibiting investigations without suspicion of a crime (ACLU, April 14). Meanwhile, the Community/Police Relations Committee (CPRC), which had not held a meeting since September 2015 (PPR #67), convened in March only to be told to wait for direction from the Human Rights Commission (HRC) before doing any work. And, the most recent profiling and force data from the Police Bureau show disproportionate policing (aka racial profiling) is still going on despite years of talk and the Bureau's "Equity Manager" being on the job for about a year.
The Profiling Work Group, which includes the ACLU, Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO), and the lawyer for the Portland Police Association (and its statewide lobbying arm, the Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs) met in March to discuss ways to improve HB 2002. One idea is to require that police explain a person does not have to consent to a search (as is law in Colorado). The group also discussed training officers statewide to investigate profiling allegations and how the state DOJ might oversee complaints.
The Urban League held a discussion on the spy scandal on March 9 which included NAACP Portland President JoAnn Hardesty, Kayse Jama of the CIO and Adrienne Cabouet of Black Lives Matter Portland. They were not surprised the state seemed to be violating 181.575. Hardesty and Jama called for patience as the law firm hired by the state completes its inquiry. Cabouet said though it's not surprising, people should be irate, noting that the state won't change unless the people demand change.
The head of the state DOJ's criminal division, Darin Tweedt, was demoted from his role as chief counsel (Oregonian, January 24).
CPRC Put on Hold... Again
The CPRC's meeting was a subdued and mostly internally focused discussion. HRC Chair Chabre Vickers, who suggested suspending the group last July (PPR #66), told CPRC not to take any action until the Commission holds a retreat to dole out work. Vickers revealed she held one- on-one meetings with the Chief and the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which other HRC commisisoners did not seem to know about.
This is a continuation of the dismantling of CPRC, even though the Committee has a clear mission statement and items in the DOJ Agreement to attend to. CPRC launched the institutional racism training which was given to the command staff and sergeants (PPRs #58 and 62), and is supposedly being rolled out to the rank and file this spring. The lack of action is in part because it's not clear who's running CPRC-- nobody replaced former Chair Sam Sachs when he resigned (he testified at the March meeting his resignation was under pressure from the Office of Equity and Human Rights), and three empty seats for community members have not been filled. Not counting Vickers, only two of five HRC positions are occupied (Allan Lazo and Marcia Suttenberg) and two at-large seats (Antonio Chimuku and Patricia Ford-- who hasn't been to a meeting in over a year). Vickers declared there would be no meeting until May while the HRC creates a body to look at the broader criminal justice system. The idea of a broader look is important (especially in light of reports about bias in Multnomah County's jails--article), but CPRC should continue to focus on Portland Police and reducing the amount of profiling.
CPRC is supposed to be analyzing the Bureau's quarterly force, traffic and pedestrian stop data.
The force data are hard to determine, as the PPB has stopped publishing the percentage of African
Americans subjected to force; that number appears to be 27% for the fourth quarter of 2015, about
average but still alarming for a city that is 6% black. The most recent stops data (released in
February) show that the percentage of African American drivers pulled over by police went up
slightly to 14%, while the percentage of black pedestrian stops was allegedly down slightly to 11%.
The Bureau redefined what constitutes a "stop" several years ago, dropping the numbers from over
1000 stops every three months to just 84. CPRC was planning to address the issue of defining
"mere conversation" vs. "stop," with a strong push from CPRC member Lt. Larry Graham. (Of the
five officers assigned to CPRC, only Graham, Assistant Chief Mike Crebs and Officer Jessica
Brainard showed up in March, with Capt. Chris Uehara and Officer Tim Evans absent.)
Graham also surprised PCW by overtly stating he is paid to be at CPRC meeetings, while community members are not.
The reported percentage of people with mental illness stopped by police was just 1.1%.
One divisive issue between CPRC and the HRC is the idea of creating a video explaining your
rights when stopped by police. The police want to co-script and appear in the video, while many
HRC members understand that the Bureau's goals (get someone to submit willingly to consent
interviews and searches) are different from the community's (assert and maintain Constitutional
rights against self-incrimination and unwarranted searches).
CPRC should look into how the Bureau uses "gang" as a veiled term for "crime involving African Americans." Last issue we cited Oregonian statistics which implied 10 of Portland's 32 homicides in 2015 were considered "gang-related," but the December 30 Willamette Week put that number at just 6. A January 1 Oregonlive piece said there were 34 homicides, noting "gang enforcement officers believe up to 12 of the killings involved some sort of gang connection, but homicide detectives have classified only three as gang-related."
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.