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Brian Stimson of The Skanner
Published: 18 February 2009

The Bias-based Policing Workgroup released a report Wednesday that revealed how prejudice and racial profiling affects, or is perceived to affect, policing in Portland.
The report analyzed 36 bias complaints of the 104 received by the Independent Police Review between July 2005 and June 2007. Complaints of disparate treatment mostly involve race and ethnicity, although about a quarter involve age, gender and sexual orientation.
On the same day, Portland Police Chief released the bureau's "Plan to Address Racial Profiling." It is not the first time the bureau has released a plan to combat a problem that the Portland Police Union have long denied even existed.
Oregon Action's Ron Williams, who has been spearheading his organization's anti-profiling effort, says he still has concerns about officer accountability.
"Reviewers were not able to follow individual officers even if they wanted to," he said. "There is still no individual accountability for officers."
Oregon Action will be holding a public meeting on their community campaign to end racial profiling on Saturday, Feb. 21 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 5431 NE 20th Ave. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz will be in attendance.
The bureau plans to collect even more detailed stop data, data on individual officers (while keeping that information from public review), increased citizen-relation training for officers, reduce the number of no-enforcement stops (by issuing warnings or citations every time), among others. View the complete report online at www.portlandonline.com/police. View a copy of the workgroup's report at www.portlandonline.com/auditor/ipr. The Skanner will post a more detailed follow-up story on the report next week.

The findings of the Bias-based Policing Workgroup include:

"In a number of the case files reviewed, the complainant's primary concern was a perceived negative attitude and/or word choice on the part of officer (Reviewers also noted that a few other complainants alleged that officers "looked down" on ESL or non-English speakers. Reviewers also noted that a few other complainants alleged that officers "looked down" on ESL or non-English speakers."

Pretext stops:

"The reviewers found that when some minority complainants were stopped for a minor traffic violation, like failure to signal more than a hundred feet before a turn, they expressed doubt they were actually stopped for the violation, and those complainants often assumed that race played a role in the stop. Pretext stops were a source of frustration for both reviewers and complainants."

Mere Conversation:

"A number of cases were generated by complainants who stated that they were not engaged in suspicious or illegal activity, but that they were contacted based on a known criminal background. In those cases, officers reported that they engaged these individuals in "mere conversation" and that the individual was free to walk away at any time. The concern of the reviewers were that they did not feel that the complainant understood that they had a right to or felt free to walk away from an officer who was trying to speak with them. Other cases of concern were those where the complainants alleged that they felt that the officers were misrepresenting their identity, their evidence or probable cause, or the purpose of their conversation in the hopes of getting the complainant to disclose criminal activity."


"In almost every case, reviewers agreed that the case-handling decisions made by IPR and/or IAD were well-informed and justified by the relevant facts.
Seven IAD investigations were reviewed. The Workgroup felt that IAD conducted adequate investigations overall. Reviewers' opinions were split in the other five cases, with some reviewers concluding that several "unfounded" findings gave too much deference to the officers' statements or too little weight to the complainants' statements."

Proving It:
"Reviewers acknowledged that allegations of disparate treatment are hard to prove on a case-by-case basis. The behavior triggering the complaint is often quite subtle like a comment or an attitude, and may even have more to do with the complainants' perceptions than the officers' underlying intent or displayed behavior.
(One) officer had received a number of similar complaints in a short timeframe. Another reviewer noted that five of the 30 cases he reviewed named the same officer. Such demonstrated patterns of past behavior can provide stronger evidence of an officer's mental state during a current encounter than looking at behavior solely on a case-by-case basis."

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