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.
UPDATEThis reporting, on proposed changes in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, seeks better recognition of race-based trauma.

They might be encouraged to unbuckle health care delivery from policing.

From PPB PowerPoint Presentation, dated 7/17/2013.

From PPB PowerPoint Presentation, dated 7/17/2013.

15 thoughts on “Going By the Numbers

  1. Hello!

    We have included a portal to this Consult Hardesty Page in the latest Alliance, our April Issue will be published this weekend!

    Consult Hardesty’s answers to selected questions on the police survey are telling and on target and here is my response.

    For me, law enforcement response to gangs seems out of step with more general community responses. Police continue to intimidate citizens. The result is that fewer Portland residents call the police because they are afraid of the consequences.

    I am far from satisfied with the Portland Police Bureau’s token “response” to gangs. Too often, the Gang Enforcement Unit is unable to articulate, identify or properly deal with indicators of gang involvement due to an obsession with skin color and an erroneous assumption that Bureau officers are somehow above the law.

    We can improve our community response to gangs by refusing to allow the Police Bureau to disproportionately stop, frisk and target people of color in our city. The only way our peace officers can improve conditions is by restraining and retraining abusive officers and removing errant officers who needlessly provoke violent altercations with citizens.

    At certain levels, the Portland Police Bureau and its officers have become a gang of armed aggressors: and too many officers see the community as their enemy.

    If armed officers want to become better integrated into the daily life of Portland, they must be held accountable for corruption, crimes and bad behavior. Otherwise rogue officers will continue to target, beat or kill citizens based on skin color or other presumptions… because they can. And the people of Portland will continue to be very afraid of the officers
    we hire to defend and protect them.

    I have one idea for improving this situation.

    If we hope to deal with gangs, we must deal with the armed and dangerous “Smoke ’em Don’t Choke ’em” Gang which roams our streets.

    The misuse and abuse of PDX police has antagonized and terrified people of color in our city. And a lack of accountability and restraint on police behavior leaves everyday people, regardless of race, creed or gender…. afraid that calling the cops may lead to avoidable violence, aggression or body bags. Over time, we have allowed rogue cops to define our department
    and it’s time for change.

    Our officers are supposed to defend and protect citizens while preserving the peace.
    If we continue to allow bully officers to target, terrorize, beat and kill residents, no amount of numbers juggling is going to solve the real problems this abuse creates.

    Unmitigated police misbehavior will continue to reflect on competent and responsible officers who do care about
    the rule of law and safe communities.

    Instead of armed extra-legal storm troopers, we need effective public servants who can create safe and secure streets without precipitously resorting to violence and acrimony. We need peace officers who
    can live up to the name and do us proud.

    We can do better and it is time we ask the Portland Police Bureau to remove officers who are part of the problem instead of part of a solution. We need to clean up our department and insist on accountability.

    Making exceptions to the rule of law for selected officers is dangerous and misguided. Citizens and officers in our community are expected to behave with tolerance, consideration and respect.

    It is long past time to walk the talk.

    most sincerely,
    Tim Flanagan
    associate editor of The Portland Alliance

  2. Pingback: Juggling the Numbers: PDX Police Response to Gangs, the Mentally Ill and everyday people. | The Wordsmith Collection

  3. I think one thing that would help increase awareness of true community policing is for there to be more documentation by officers of their reasonable suspicions prior to a stop. If an officer is riding in his car or is otherwise able to, he/she should be required to articulate why he/she is going to stop X person they see. That should be documented. So if a person makes a complaint, we can verify whether the officers were being truthful. My boyfriend, who is Black, has been stopped 4 times in 6 months walking by my house near Lewis and Clark, every time they ask to see his ID because there has been a reported robbery in the area. Yet, he is afraid to ask anything or even pull out his phone camera to record an encounter because he is afraid of being shot because an officer may think he is reaching for a weapon. The community is scared of police. Communities of color are fearful of police.

  4. I didn’t vote for Chief Mike Reese and I’m tired of him running our town instead of the elected officials.

    …”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.” This brings to mind the government handling of the Katrina disaster in neighborhoods of color in New Orleans, of civil rights oppression in the south in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s (and every decade fanning out in each direction), of the George Zimmerman verdict, of the surfeit of privatized prisons in America and our excessively high incarceration rates, the general militarization and brutality of our police forces at home and abroad.

    Portland has an opportunity to lead the way in reforming our police forces — hiring, training, accountability, retention and arms all need to come under review. Let’s vote out the incumbents and get some city councilors who feel solidarity, not charity, when they think of we the people. Enough with the corporate fast-track back-room Porklandia deals and total lack of accountability. Give us liberty and justice for all.

  5. Unfortunately, the Portland Police Bureau’s response to gang activity, accompanied by the automatic corporate media boost, is poisoning Portland’s social consciousnss, greatly impeding our social progress, helping only to keep us in the dark ages of the worst sort of skin bigotry. To paraphrase the late Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, there are prisons made of brick and mortar, and prisons made of ignorance, illiteracy, racism and inequality. The police culture, based on fear and ignorance, is not one we can continue to tolerate.

  6. Interestingly, Pam, I hit a chord with Lt. Cliff Bacigalupi, of PPB’s
    Behavioral Health Unit. In conversation about delivering mental health hygiene throughout an officer’s career, I noted fear plays a role … as a precursor to anger and poor conduct. Bacigalupi replied, “That’s the elephant in the room.” I took him to mean police culture, which values heroism and vigorous intervention, remains generally ignorant of emotional influences on officer behavior: to speak of it is a betrayal of cultural norms. Before a change in Mayoral administrations silenced the conversation, I’d been working to improve delivery of psych eval services to PPB: one observation was minimal officer compliance with evaluations following trauma. To be ‘stuck on a desk’ prior to return to full duty was humiliating. Officers feared what others would think while they engaged in a nurturing process.

    We feel this distinct antipathy to care makes police the wrong choice as providers of such care to others in mental health crisis. Better Portland City Council rely on paramedics, whose career goals are more aligned with restoration to health.

  7. I appreciate the thread of social consciousness here, as my mediation training has me look for common needs in situations.

    My observation of issues directly related to power – such as how policing and gang activity intersect – have to do, intimately, with respect and dignity. I’m reminded of that human need on this thread; something insisted upon both by officers (albeit unobtrusively) and everyone those officers encounter on the street.

    That said, I recognize more immediately, the frustration and valid protest of people experiencing profiling and excessive use of force, and see their experience in the context of a dire imbalance of power. To me, this imbalance needs to be addressed within any plan for addressing profiling and excessive use of force.

    To me, If we work at the root of things here, what needs to shift is the level of access to the tools that allow people to insist effectively in being treated with respect and dignity. The main tools being: political decision making, financial, and social. We all know the correlation between political and financial factors among those profiled, or who are victims of excessive force. And indeed; the social tools have gone sideways; they are unwhole and impotent in a culture where the warrior image does not include empathy and self care.

  8. I appreciate the thoughtful conversation on this thread. What you are hearing is a sense of urgency because summer is just around the corner.

    Every summer Portland Police have a new initiative that is supposed to keep kids safe but ends up with the Gang Unit operating as the biggest gang in our community.

    It is not ok in any city to be unable to walk the street without fear of Police violence. Not all of us on this thread face this daily fear (except Brianna) but kids – 9 years of age or older, who are black – face it regularly.

    We don’t have time for study groups, task forces or consultants.
    We just need real leadership that will put a stop to this nonsense!

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  11. This Psychology Today article references a study which finds “perceived racial discrimination was associated with increased mental disorders in African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans, suggesting that racism may in itself be a traumatic experience.” Rather than aligning with the Gang ‘Enforcement’ Unit, the most racist arm of the police bureau, I wish County Health would attend to those victimized by race-based trauma.
    Another interesting observation: “Minority clients also may not link current PTSD symptoms to cumulative experiences of discrimination, if queried about a single event.”

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