When tackling racial justice, we find statistics the province of policy makers. We realize emotionally grappling with the psychological damage that stop & frisk engenders would more likely lead to to policy revisions and reduce stressors leading to early-onset death among constituents of color. But until you’ve worked to permeate political insularity and overcome victim reluctance to testify in open hearings, you’ll not understand how difficult it is to reach decision-makers at an emotional level.
I had no idea that allowing the Portland Police Bureau to collect
Stop Data [post removed] would for so long indicate racial disparities. The numbers have remained consistent since data was first released a decade ago.
African Americans in Portland are twice as likely to be stopped by police. Once stopped, they are twice as likely to be searched. African Americans are half as likely to be found with weapons, contraband or outstanding warrants. They are then twice as likely to have legal consequences.
PPB tried fiddling with the numbers. In 2009 they contracted with Brian C. Renauer, Ph.D., and his Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute, in a failed attempt to apply anything but census data as benchmarks. Perpetually three years behind collection in their release, the latest PPB analysis (the 6 months’ raw data has not been divulged) shows racial disparities persist … despite Renauer’s creative reliance on ‘multiple analytic perspectives.’ (Last year, 2009 report co-author Emily Covelli was hired, full-time by PPB.)
We – who have been playing it since 2009 – weary of the numbers game. Improved data collection was integral to the 2009 Police Plan to Address Racial Profiling (pp. 36-38). Incurious City authorities never asked for even a first annual review of the Plan. Almost assuredly as a result of our testimony, the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division included language in a 2012 Settlement Agreement to address “community concerns regarding discriminatory policing” (pg. 38). In consultation with others, “PPB shall consider enhancements to its data collection efforts, and report on its efforts to enhance data collection to the DOJ by no later than December 31, 2013.” One of the consultation bodies is Portland’s police-centric Community and Police Relations Committee, also charged in the Agreement (pg. 56) with finally ‘implementing’ the racial profiling plan. December 2013 has come and gone. CPRC is so far from being pro-active, they don’t even realize the version of the Plan they’ve posted is five years out of date.
And so it was with some suspicion that we greeted an invitation to be surveyed by a heretofore unknown Multnomah County Comprehensive Gang Assessment (sic). We are well aware that the Agreement (pg. 55) calls for a community oversight board to conduct a “reliable, comprehensive, and representative” community survey to ascertain our “experiences with and perceptions of PPB’s prior community outreach efforts and accountability efforts, and where those efforts could be improved.” Retaining the Police Commissioner role to himself, Portland’s Mayor Hales contracted with Renauer to rush out his own survey, establishing dismal results as ‘baseline data’ for subsequent stellar improvements.
We realize, however, that publishing Roger David Hardesty‘s responses to the unknown, purportedly county agency, gives readers an opportunity to critique our positions. We apologize for the ‘policy speak.’ We’d rather you understand the psychic relationship between the Gang ‘Enforcement’ Unit and slave patrollers of old: both were mobile units of armed men, employing the element of surprise and mortal fear to obtain compliance … ostensibly in the review of freedom papers.
You have been identified as a community leader in Multnomah County. The following questions will gather your opinions about gang activity.
12. What is the general community response to gangs by law enforcement, parents, educators, other community leaders, etc.?
Police attend neighborhood watch events to instill fear of ‘others’ among white property owners. Suspicion inhibits community cohesion in a time of population shift. I’ve witnessed neighbors beginning to pause, to observe the recent increase of police stops on people of color.
14. Are you satisfied with the current response to gangs by law enforcement, social service agencies, schools, etc.?
No. The Gang Enforcement Unit is unable to articulate … other than skin tone … indicators of gang involvement.
16. How can we help to improve the community’s response to gangs?
Present a rationale. Develop criteria for interjecting armed officers into daily life, when no probable cause exists. Let us know how often ‘mere conversation’ results in arrest. Sample PPB Stop Data for correlations between depth of pigmentation and ‘hit rates,’ vs. non-productive stop & frisk. Report to the community the effectiveness of relying on Independent Police Review to improve officer conduct.
17. Do you have additional thoughts or opinions that you feel would be helpful to include in the Multnomah County Comprehensive Gang Assessment?
Maintenance of gang designation records leave local authority vulnerable to civil rights prosecutions. Independent assessment need be given criteria for inclusion, ability to appeal incorrect designations, and record retention and access. You’ll find some of the less specious categories would be hard to defend & the community needs assurance about intelligence gathering operations.
NOTE: Googling for the edress of the county bureaucrat overseeing responses to the survey, it transpires Ms. Stavenjord’s responsibilities fall within the Multnomah County Health Department. Someone should alert her to Carter and Mazzula‘s 2006 paper: Mental Health Effects of Racial Profiling and the recently released National Institute on Aging report, cited in this article.
UPDATE: This reporting, on proposed changes in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, seeks better recognition of race-based trauma.