“I trust in Portlanders sense of fairness; that bad actions by one member of any group does not and should not be generalized or applied more widely to other members of that same group. Otherwise, as part of the biggest racial group in Portland, European-Americans, producing many crimes daily, would be in deep trouble.”
Mayor Sam Adams peddles "fairness" while Portland is awash in crime
"I was recently told by a media person that if something happens in this city, I'm toast."
So said Tom Potter, mayor of Portland, Oregon, on April 28, 2005 as he and the city council voted to bar Portland police from participating in one of the federal government's key anti-terrorism initiatives, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. In Portland's deep-blue precincts, there was intense opposition to the Bush administration's conduct of the war on terror; residents worried the task force might violate state anti-discrimination laws by targeting Muslims for their religious and political views. So city leaders forbade police from taking part in it.
They made brave statements. "Here in Portland, we are not willing to give up individual liberties in order to have a perception of safety," city commissioner Randy Leonard told reporters a few days before the vote. Yet there was still a little note of concern in Mayor Potter's words: What if there were a terrorist attack after we refused to work with the FBI to prevent it?
As the nation's first African American president prepares to take office this week, metro Portland -- with its overwhelmingly white population and leadership -- is demographically out of step with 2009 America.
Among the nation's 40 largest metro areas, only four -- none of them in the West -- are whiter than Portland, new census figures show…
Portland's lack of diversity means it is less cosmopolitan, less dynamic and at risk of being less competitive than other metro areas, worries David Bragdon, president of the Metro regional government.
Portland has a metro population that is 78 percent white, a melancholy fact that infuriates DWL’s who feel that a lack of Black people distracts from the hipster, Stuff White People Like (SWPL) vibe the city should display.
Traffic stops of African American motorists in 2009 accounted for 12 percent of all Portland police traffic stops, a disproportionately high rate considering they make up about 6 percent of the city's population aged 16 and over.
And when police record all subject stops, not simply traffic stops, African Americans made up 21 percent in 2009, according to the Portland Police Bureau's "Community Relations Report 2009."
The ratios have remained constant over the last five years, a longer-term study by Portland State University shows.
Leslie Stevens, manager of the bureau's Office of Accountability and Professional Standards, presented both reports Wednesday night to the city's Community and Police Relations Committee.
Blacks have been stopped at more than twice the rate of white motorists when stop data from 2004 through June 2008 is analyzed, according to the report by PSU's Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute.
PSU's five-year study also compared data from daytime and nighttime traffic stops, and found there was a close to a 50 percent increase in traffic stops at night for all racial groups in Portland, with the percentage increase the largest for African Americans.
The study found that two-thirds of traffic stops of blacks occurred in 24 city neighborhoods that account for the very highest calls for police service and violent crime.
"It appears that citizen calls for service, neighborhood violent crime and proactive patrol are all interconnected with increased risks of African Americans being stopped in neighborhoods," the PSU study found. "Our conclusion does not imply that African Americans themselves are more likely to commit crimes given equal circumstances and should be treated with more suspicion."
Stevens, who will lose her job July 1 under the police chief's budget cuts, said the data historically has been compiled and released without informing management decisions.
"So the question is how do you manage the deliveries of that (police) service in a way that doesn't foster or contribute to a sense of distrust?" Stevens said.
Gang Enforcement Sgt. Tony Passadore, a committee member, said officers are trained to notice a person's "behavioral cues" when deciding whom to stop. If an officer makes contact with someone and then realizes "this isn't what I thought it was," Passadore says it's important the officer "turn it into a positive thing."
"The Police Bureau deploys its resources in areas where we have higher crime rates, where more minorities live," Passadore said. "That would explain part of the increase in numbers."
Dave Fidanque, executive director of Oregon's American Civil Liberties Union, said most residents in high-crime areas would welcome a greater police presence. If there are more minorities living in those areas, they're more likely to be seen by a police officer when they're committing a minor traffic offense, although there are patrol officers enforcing traffic laws throughout the city, he said.
Portland’s liberals hate law enforcement. They believe that law enforcement is unnecessarily violent, biased and generally insensitive to politically correct policies. More importantly law enforcement is expensive and commands resources that might be “better” spent on Portland’s social programs.
To enforce Oregon’s criminal laws in Northeast Portland, Portland’s police might be accused of (gasp) “racial profiling.” After all the police will be focusing their attention on African American youths. Arrests of these gang members will reinforce the disproportionate ratio of African Americans detained. Prosecution, conviction and imprisonment of these gang members will similarly reinforce the disproportionate ratio of African Americans incarcerated. In politically correct Portland that just cannot happen.
But something must be done. Something that appears to express concern, suggests action and accomplishes nothing.
The African grocers, restaurants and beauty shops create a sharp visual of how Portland's black population is changing. As more African Americans move to the suburbs, an infusion of African immigrants is the only thing holding Portland's small black population of 35,000 steady.
"We've been watching this evolve over a period of time," says Avel Gordly, Oregon's first black female state senator and a black studies professor at Portland State University. "It provides a rich and wonderful opportunity for African Americans to connect with their culture, to move past stereotypes that say Africans and African Americans don't have anything in common."
Portland is 12th in the nation for refugee resettlement, according to a 2007 report by the Brookings Institution, bringing in 34,000 refugees from across the globe between 1984 and 2003. But it's also one of the whitest cities in the country.