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Newspaper Reveals Racial Profiling Widespread from Cops to Courts Legislation Considered in Salem

Since the last issue of the People's Police Report, a series of articles in the Portland Tribune detailed an exhaustive study on unequal justice in our state. Their findings are staggering. For criminal offenses which occur at roughly equal rates among all ethnicities, there are, for example, 30 times more charges associated with cocaine possession for African American Oregonians than for whites; eight times more robbery charges for blacks than whites. It's estimated that, when black citizens are fined as a result of convictions, they paid about 20 million dollars more since 2005 than whites charged for the same crimes (February 2).

While the causes of these disparities are multifactorial, they begin at the point of contact between the police and the public.

Edwin Peterson, retired chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, began efforts to document these inequities and legislate change in 1991. Surveys and interviews conducted at that time revealed stunning inequity-- from sidewalk to prison, people of color experienced higher arrest rates, lower releases on bail, higher conviction rates and more severe sentencing. Of a sweeping package of bills they submitted to the Oregon Senate to address these disparities, only two passed: forbidding jury selection based on ethnicity and excluding racists from serving as jurors. Both sound good, but are probably difficult to enforce (Tribune, February 7).

A study of exclusions given on public transit showed TriMet excludes far more African American riders than whites. Improper fare was enforced 25.5% overall but 36% against black riders (Portland Tribune, December 20)

In 2015, advocacy groups won passage of HB 2002, outlawing profiling in police contacts (PPR #66). As we've noted before, this law hinges on the word "solely"-- unlawful profiling is committed when contact is purely based on ethnicity or other characteristics.

A bill currently being considered in the legislature-- HB2355-- mandates collection of data about the ethnicity of people stopped by police, which supporters hope will add more fuel to initiatives to reform Oregon's justice system. The measure also mandates training in police departments to prevent profiling. Other provisions of the bill lower several drug charges from felonies to misdemeanors and provide for paths to treatment.

HB 2002 didn't end the police mindset which resulted in the street execution of Quanice Hayes in February (article). It didn't cause a grand jury to indict Andrew Hearst, the officer who shot Hayes three times. HB 2355 will scarcely end the racist practices of police departments in Oregon, but it will provide some factual information. Giving the public more information can only be a basis for more demands for systemic change.

See the Tribune's series at portlandtribune.com/politics/unequal-justice.

  People's Police Report

May, 2017
Also in PPR #71

Police Kill Black Teen,
  Wound White Man Same Day

  Oregon Police: 31 Shootings 2016-17
City Disbands DOJ Oversight Body
Council Hears Rare Misconduct Appeal
Changes Made to Oversight System
Protests Met with Violence or Hugs
Newspaper Shows Profiling Widespread
Survey: People of Color Fear Profiling
Problems Plague Jail, Sheriff
Training Council Focuses on Tasers
PRB Report: Officer Not Disciplined
Police Absent in Houseless Debate
PPB Asks for Policy Input Again
City, County and ICE
Quick Flashes PPR 71
  • Trooper Slaps Son, Loses Job
  • Chief, Aide Put on Leave
  • Civilian Kills Homeless Man, No Charges
  • Law Will Exclude People from Meetings
Updates PPR 71
  • Mohammed Mohamud's Appeal Denied
Rapping Back #71

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 #71 Table of Contents
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