People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Profiling Bill Expanded in Salem as Police Bureau Covers Up Stop Data in Portland
While there was a lot of disappointment with inaction during the 2017 Oregon legislative session, one win was the passage of HB 2355, which expanded the previous law on racial profiling (PPR #66) by requiring collection of data statewide. Unfortunately, at the same time, data released by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) indicate they are playing fast and loose with their definitions as they track stops by race.
HB 2355 requires the Attorney General's office to keep a statewide database on stops to help identify where problems exist. Funding is provided for training to help officers understand and identify profiling in police contacts with the public. The bill had wide support from a variety of stakeholders, including from the law enforcement community. As reported in our last issue, the bill did not fix the flaw in 2015's HB 2002 which defines profiling only when an officer's action is "solely" based on race or other personal characteristics. Further, the revised law limits the data collection to officer-initated stops not connected to calls for service. Portland Copwatch (PCW) intends to analyze the implementation. One is tempted to believe that some officers will want to use the data to prove that racial profiling does not exist.
The other good thing in the bill was a reduction in the classification of first time offense possession of controlled substances from a felony to a misdemeanor. This is a first step to avoid branding folks for life as felony offenders for trivial drug use, particularly since such crimes are disproportionately prosecuted against people of color.
In June, PCW noted that in the Bureau's Q1 2017 Traffic and Pedestrian Stop Data, they re- instituted their practice of including "specialty units" such as the Gang Enforcement Team, showing 33% of people stopped by all such units combined are African American in a city that is 6% black. However, by combining all the units in one they likely watered down the GET's previously reported rate of 38% in 2011 (PPR #62). More disturbingly, the new report shows that overall, the PPB only stopped 43 pedestrians from January to March 2017 and of those, 7 (16%) were black. Portland Copwatch suspects that these numbers are seriously under-reported, likely because officers have a different definition of what is a "stop" than what people in the community perceive. When you are asked by an officer to identify yourself, say where you are going, show identification and be subjected to a pat down, most people would consider that a stop. The Bureau, though, seems to think it is "mere conversation."
See the Portland stop data at: portlandoregon.gov/police/article/639945
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.