Black people made up 52% of the Portland police Gun Violence Reduction Team’s stops in 2019, according to data released by the Oregonian. Blacks make up about 6% of the city’s population.
Across the Portland Police Bureau, officers were significantly more likely to stop a driver for non-traffic violations if the driver was Black. Black motorists also were more likely to be searched, yet less likely than whites to be found with contraband, according to bureau reports.
With its release of the 2019 stop data, the bureau announced plans to improve its collection of information surrounding police stops of both motorists and pedestrians by adding reasons for the stops in future reports -- a recommendation that’s been made repeatedly in past years, most recently in January by a community group that oversees federally mandated bureau reforms.
Police also plan to start training officers to use an audio recording app any time officers ask for someone’s consent to search their person or their car.
“Stops data helps us realize overrepresentation in the criminal justice system still exists,” said Police Chief Chuck Lovell. “It’s important to continue to enhance the data collection process to give us a better understanding of the context of stops, searches and arrests. We will continue to incorporate these system changes, policy changes and training, including how to better capture consent searches.”
The City Council in June disbanded the bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team amid a groundswell of calls for police reforms that swept the U.S. after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, and complaints that the team was targeting a disproportionate number of Black people.
In 2019, the gun enforcement team stopped 1,605 drivers and pedestrians , accounting for about 5% of all documented stops in the police bureau. The team’s officers reported making about six stops per workday.
Black drivers and pedestrians made up 52% of the team’s stops, compared to white drivers and pedestrians, who made up 32% of the team’s stops.
The bureau pointed out that 80% of the team’s stops were within a quarter-mile of a shooting.
The chief said he realizes the Police Bureau’s stops create fear and distrust and are inconvenient.
“We want to make sure the stops are well-reasoned and fair and proportionate,” Lovell said.
The chief said that he recognizes that Black people are overrepresented in the gun violence team’s stops, but he said they also are overrepresented as victims of gun violence.
“The numbers are the numbers,” the chief said, adding, “but there’s a context to those numbers” that he doesn’t think many people fully understand.
Portland police across the city stopped 33,035 drivers in 2019 -- a 12% increase from the previous year -- with the most stops occurring in East Precinct.
The bureau examined stops made by traffic officers separate from stops made by all other officers, including patrol officers and investigators.
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