Portland Police have released their annual report on traffic and pedestrian stops, confirming what our communities already know: Portland Police disproportionately stop and search Black and Latinx drivers and pedestrians. Those disparities have gotten worse every year since 2016.
According to the US Census Bureau, approximately 5.8% of Portlanders are Black, and 9.7% are Latinx. At the same time, 12.6% of drivers stopped by Portland Police's Traffic Division were Black, and 11.2% were Latinx. Of the drivers stopped by other divisions of the Police Bureau, a whopping 22.4% of drivers stopped were Black. Pedestrian stops were just as bad: 23.7% of pedestrians stopped by the Traffic Division were Black, as were 18.2% of those stopped by other police divisions. And during these stops, Black, Latinx, indigenous, and Pacific Islander communities were more likely to be asked to submit to a consent search, and less likely to refuse.
These are staggering disparities.
In 2020, nearly 70,000 Portlanders told City Council to defund police and reimagine community safety from the ground up. We marched, rallied, called, emailed, testified, and made our voices crystal clear. We won some modest but important cuts: disinvestment from Transit Police, elimination of the rebranded Gang Enforcement Team, redirection of cannabis taxes from policing, and the defunding of school-based police officers.
"Even winning those modest cuts meant we had to drag most of City Council kicking and screaming along with the community," says Sushma Raghavan, Unite Oregon's interim Executive Director. "We need to keep the pressure on Mayor Wheeler and the City Council to reallocate funding from the Portland Police Bureau and instead invest those funds in community-based programs."
Over the past year, we've seen a majority on Portland City Council waver on police accountability, and they've failed to support community-centered alternatives to policing. Commissioners Ryan, Mapps, and Mayor Wheeler refused to fully fund Portland Street Response to respond to calls involving people in mental health crisis, even after Portland Police shot and killed Robert Delgado in Lents Park last April. While community-based programs must beg for funding, local politicians continue to write a blank check for the Portland Police Bureau. In recently-released text messages, Mayor Ted Wheeler even unilaterally directed the Police to reinstate the disbanded gun violence team, with no civilian or community oversight. We as a community had to put incredible pressure on the Mayor and Council to make even small cuts to the Portland Police Bureau, and now that the pressure's off, the city is quickly working to undo the progress we've made.