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Portland Copwatch Testimony on
US Dept of Justice/City of Portland Settlement (Section 9)


Summary: The Agreement calls for collection of demographic data about some police encounters, but it is not clear which encounters will be tracked or that changes will be made based on the data.

In its Letter of Findings (p. 41), the DOJ made a formal recommendation (#9) that the Bureau track every citizen contact as a way to build community trust. They also made an informal recommendation to create a policy around when officers initiate stops and when they expand a contact beyond "mere conversation" (Letter of Findings p. 40). The Agreement makes only a vague requirement for the Bureau to "document appropriate demographic data regarding the subjects of police encounters, including the race, age, sex and perceived mental health status of the individual" without defining which "encounters" are to be covered (paragraph 148).

Furthermore, and once again showing that the DOJ and the City will need to do some renegotiations to fix the Agreement, the same paragraph calls for the city to "report on its efforts to enhance data collection to the DOJ by no later than December 31, 2013." So far as we know from conversations with members of the Bureau, that has not happened.

Although the Agreement generally ignores the Findings letter's suggestions to improve race relations (pp. 38-40), it is good that this data collection is being done specifically to "contribute to the Community and Police Relations Committee's analysis of community concerns regarding discriminatory policing." Unfortunately, the CPRC received a draft of the 2011 stops data in July 2013 and has not even seen the draft data for 2012 as of late January 2014. Delays of two years and more in analyzing the data will not be beneficial, especially since CPRC is required to report to the Community Oversight Advisory Board on the progress of the City's Racial Profiling Plan (paragraph 146-d).

On December 19, the Portland Tribune ran a story about a new program being rolled out, ostensibly to get police officers out of their cars to engage in "community policing."*- 37 The article quotes an officer who requested three young people get out of a car and submit to a "stop-and-pat down... His intent was to talk to the youths and he couldn't comfortably do that until he knew they weren't armed." So it seems that on the one hand the Bureau is minimally instituting the parameters of the Agreement, and on the other hand they are making a mockery of it. Our discussions with members of the Bureau and City staff about this program indicate they are not necessarily planning to track who it is that is being "stopped and patted down." Direction must be given through this Court process that the policies meant to improve community-police relations with people experiencing mental illness should be considered for across-the-board implementation, unless the City wants to end up back in court with new pattern and practice findings about race.

One of the programs that has in the past disproportionately targeted African Americans, the Service Coordination Team, is embedded into permanent City policy by the Agreement (paragraph 112). In 2008, statistics showed that 52% of the people subject to this program were African American in a city that is 6% black.*-38 While we applaud getting people into treatment rather than jail, we question whether such social service triage should be done by the police rather than appropriate agencies (similar to the remedies being proposed vis a vis mental health), and why money is available for people who have criminal records to get treatment, but not others who may seek it.

Other areas of the Agreement which discuss the collection of demographic data vary from falling short to seemingly useful:

--Crisis Intervention Team data collection is to include name, age, gender, and address but not race (paragraph 105-b).

--Outreach work to be done by the COAB is going to use the PPB's demographic data to tailor outreach and "community policing" (paragraph 147), which is a vague term that can be misused for programs like the "stop-and-pat-down" mentioned above.

--The Compliance Officer/Community Liaison's semi-annual assessments are to include demographic data connected to use of force, force complaints, and sustained force complaints (paragraph 173-a-ii through iv). The Bureau posted some demographic data in early 2013, let the data slide for the second quarter, but then posted the demographic data again in the fall*-39 at the urging of Portland Copwatch.

The Bureau's demographic data on Use of Force over the summer shows that use of force against people with mental illness rose, and that the number of Taser implementations where people were shocked more than twice also rose. So while it is important that the data are released, it should be made clear that one reason for collecting such data is to follow the purpose of the Agreement, to use less force and fewer Taser strikes.

*-37- "Pat downs likely to increase as cops take to the street," Portland Tribune, December 19, 2013
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*-38- "Blacklisted: D oes City's 'Livability' List Have Racial Imbalance?" Portland Mercury, April 24, 2008
. Portland Copwatch can supply the court with other, similar data indicating that African Americans get disproportionately targeted through other programs such as the Gun Exclusion Zones (86%), Illegal Drug Impact Areas (39%), having police firearms pointed at them (34%), use of force (29%), shootings/deaths (25%), pedestrian stops (23%) and traffic stops (12%) as well as being over- searched (four times as often) and found to have contraband only 80% as often as their white counterparts.
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*-39- Portland Police Bureau Force Data Summaries
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DOJ Letter of Findings (September 12, 2012)

DOJ / City of Portland Settlment Agreement (November 14, 2012)

Next Section: 10. Implementation and Transparency

Back to Copwatch DOJ information page

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Testimony sections:

1. Appealing Findings
  on Deadly Force Cases

2. Taser Use
  and the DOJ Agreement

3. Accountability--
  Independent Police Review

4. Accountability--
  Citizen Review Committee

5. Accountability--
  Police Review Board

6. Use of Force
  and the DOJ Agreement

7. Mental Health Provisions
8. Training
  and the DOJ Agreement

9. Tracking Police Contacts
  / Demographic Information

10. Implementation and

11. Oversight of the
  Agreement / Conclusion

(Additional Materials

Testimony in pdf format
  (16 pgs)

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

Posted January 31, 2014

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