In 2019, the Portland police Gun Violence team made 1,600 stops. More than half were Black people. – OregonLive


Black people made up of 52% of the Portland police Gun Violence Reduction Team’s stops in 2019, data released released Thursday shows.

Across the Portland Police Bureau, officers were significantly more likely to stop a driver for non-traffic violations if the driver was Black in 2019. 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 over-representation 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.

Blacks made up of 52 % of the team’s stops, compared to whites, 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 also 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 Blacks 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 percent 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.

Blacks made up 22% of all non-traffic officers’ stops, a disproportionately high rate considering they make up about 6% of the city’s population. When only looking at stops made by Portland traffic officers, Blacks made up 11% of the stops.

In 2019, 4% of drivers were asked to consent to a voluntary police search. Black drivers were asked to consent to a search at almost twice the rate of all other racial groups, according to the bureau report. Police asked Black drivers to be searched in 8.2% of stops, while they asked whites to consent to searches in 3.1% of stops.

White drivers were significantly more likely to refuse a search than Black drivers.

This disparity reflects “an equity imbalance that can be traced back to systemic issues of race and power in the criminal justice system and law enforcement,” the bureau report said.

Searches conducted by traffic officers were significantly more likely to be based on probable cause that a violation had occurred, while officers who are not assigned to the traffic division almost exclusively asked for consent to search a vehicle stopped, the report said.

In 2019, 47.8% of all searches ended with an officer finding contraband, such as alcohol, drugs, stolen property or weapons — up from 41.3% in 2015.

Of Blacks who were searched upon consent, police found contraband in 45% of those cases, compared with police finding contraband in 50% of the stops of white drivers who granted consent to search.

Of motorists stopped in 2019, 49.5%, received a written or verbal warning. Once stopped, Blacks and Latino drivers were more likely to be arrested than white drivers, the data showed.

Pedestrians stopped by police officers were significantly more likely to be searched than motorists stopped – 13.6% of all pedestrian stops ended in a search in 2019. Total pedestrian searches have decreased, but not significantly since 2015, when 21% of all stops ended in a search, according to the bureau reports.

In a separate report that examined stops by members of its former Gun Violence Reduction Team, the majority of the team’s stops, or 55.2%, occurred in East Precinct, followed by 38.5% in North Precinct, and 2.7% in Central Precinct, with another 3.7% just outside of Portland.

Officers from the team were significantly more likely to perform a discretionary search once a stop occurred, compared with officers from other divisions.

Blacks were significantly more likely to be asked to be searched when stopped by the team’s officers (search asked for in 36% of stops), and whites were significantly less likely to be asked to be searched when stopped (search sought in 13.7% of their stops), the bureau’s report said.

Of the team’s consent searches, Blacks were found with contraband in 46% of the searches, less frequently than when whites were searched with their consent, at 56.4%.

“Consent searches are the least likely to discover contraband — even though they are the predominant search type” used by Portland police, the report noted.

Of all the gun violence team’s stops, 88% ended with a warning, written or verbal, at the end of the interaction.

People with a perceived mental health issue were significantly more likely to be stopped as pedestrians and searched than those with no known or no perceived mental health issues, the bureau’s figures showed.

— Maxine Bernstein

Email at [email protected]; 503-221-8212

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