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Most of Oregon’s largest police departments are slightly more likely to cite or arrest minorities during traffic and pedestrian stops, but the disparity isn’t significant enough to warrant further scrutiny, according to a new state report.
However, the report singled out the Portland Police Bureau for its disparate treatment of African Americans.
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission on Sunday issued its first-ever report examining data from the state’s 12 largest police agencies for evidence of racial disparities in traffic and pedestrian stops. The analysis, based on data from nearly 400,000 stops between July of 2018 and June of 2019, was mandated by the Legislature in 2017. A review of smaller agencies is next.
Ken Sanchagrin, commission deputy director, said that the report evaluated why each person was stopped, their race and whether they were searched, arrested or given a warning. Sanchagrin said that the Portland Police Bureau was the only agency to warrant further examination by the commission.
“I was frankly pleasantly surprised that we didn’t find a lot of systematic issues,” said Sanchagrin.
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But state Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, called the report concerning because it highlighted longstanding issues.
“I don’t think that’s a minor situation at all,” said Frederick. “These are issues we have been trying to deal with for some time.”
The report used a statistical technique to predict how likely an individual was to be stopped, searched, cited and arrested. Factors considered the time of day and reason for the stop, as well as the gender and age of the person
The analysis found no discrepancies for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office or city departments in Medford, Eugene and Gresham. However, it found that the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police and Salem Police Department were more likely to issue citations to minorities during stops. Beaverton police were slightly more likely to search, arrest or cite blacks or Hispanics.
Hispanics were 5% more likely to be cited, searched of arrested by Salem police and 2.5% more by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. The Salem Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Among the larger disparities, Hispanics were 7% more likely to be cited, searched or arrested by the Hillsboro Police Department than others. The Oregon State Police had a similar disparity for blacks and Hispanics.
The report described the Portland Police Bureau as the “sole outlier” compared to other police forces for its disparities. The report found that African Americans were more likely to face arrest and twice as likely to be searched by Portland police. Despite African Americans being more likely to be searched, Portland police were less likely to find contraband on them.
The report also compared how likely police officers were to find contraband in searches of white to black and Hispanic suspects. While the report found no or “small differences” in search outcomes for most agencies, it again called out the Portland Police Bureau. The report found that 25.5% of white individuals searched by Portland police officers had contraband while the rate for blacks was 10.9%.
The report comes on the heels of a critical report by the W. Haywood Burns Institute on racial disparities in Multnomah County. The Portland Police Bureau said in a statement last week before the report was released that it was looking into improving training, among other measures.
“We recognize that data demonstrating over representation by race in stops, arrests, and other areas in the criminal justice system creates distrust and fear within the community,” said Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw in the statement. “It is time we move beyond reporting out on the data and into implementation of intentional strategies in an effort to create meaningful change.”
The state report recommended that researchers more deeply examine the bureau and get technical assistance from the state police training agency.
Bobbin Singh, executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, said that such reports affirm the experience of minorities across the state. But he said that too often the response by policymakers is “muddled” or “passive,” focused on nuance or small policy changes when a bolder approach to institutional racism is needed.
“At what point is there enough data to say, ‘this is enough; we have to confront this systemically and holistically,’” he said.
Frederick called for a shift in the mindset of police officers from wanting to “catch the bad guys” to protecting and serving everyone.
“That’s got to be part of basic training,” he said.
Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.