PORTLAND, OR – During a press conference on Tuesday, Portland City Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell made the announcement that in order to assist people of color, police will no longer be conducting “low-level” traffic infractions such as expired registration and broken headlights. Apparently, such traffic collisions affect people of color at a disproportionate rate.
Traffic stops will solely be focused on those that are “public safety threats.” Additionally, on each stop, an officer must inform the driver of their right to refuse a vehicle search and obtain recorded consent to search. Further, the entire exchange must be recorded.
What’s more, the officers now have to hand out cards to the drivers to inform them of their rights.
The idea for these new guidelines came from black lawmakers during the Oregon legislative session this year. That would have made these standard policing practices law statewide, but a final product didn’t make it through the session.
Mayor Wheeler said, “We’re not going to wait for another legislative session to bring about the changes that we want to see.”
Police in Portland, Oregon, are being advised to no longer pursue low-level traffic infractions in most cases because of data showing a disproportionate impact on Black drivers for traffic stops and vehicle searches, Mayor Ted Wheeler says. https://t.co/YwaQOY6Nod
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 22, 2021
The data they’re looking at shows that Portland’s population is 75% white and account for 65% of Portland’s traffic stops, while blacks are 6% of the population but make up 18% of Portland’s stops.
Chief Lovell said that officers will still be permitted to use their judgement if the violation is an immediate threat, such as a person driving without headlights on at night. It’s unclear, however, if police will feel that they are in fact allowed to use their judgement.
Of course, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is in support of the changes. She released a statement that said, “It’s no secret I’ve had disagreements with Mayor Wheeler and Chief Lovell as to how we as a City respond to this unique moment in history demanding racial justice and transformation of community safety.
However, when the Mayor and PPB make good decisions, they will have my full support and this is one of those occasions. Thank you Mayor Wheeler and Chief Lovell for this significant change that will advance the cause of racial justice in policing.
“I strongly support today’s announcement that PPB will no longer pursue minor traffic violations and will limit car searches, while informing drivers of their constitutional rights during these encounters. This allows the police to focus on traffic violations that pose an immediate safety threat and other higher priority crime mitigation efforts, such as solving crimes related to the increase in gun violence.
“Historically across the nation and here in Portland, traffic stops have led to unjustified police violence that have too often turned deadly for Black, Indigenous, and all Communities of Color. Even less violent encounters have contributed to a feeling of being profiled and thus losing trust in law enforcement – feelings supported by the data that shows Black people make up a disproportionate rate of traffic stops here in Portland.
“This is another positive step in the right direction and I want to thank the community that set these expectations for change through 150 days of protest last summer. The work continues and we will need your continued engagement to rethink community safety for all.”
This piece was written by Leah Anaya on June 22, 2021. It originally appeared in ThinBlueLineTV.com and is used by permission.
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