Racial profiling is the subject of much public attention, and opinions on the matter vary widely. In order to address this concern, a panel of community leaders and Portland Police Bureau representatives was convened, with the purpose of forming recommendations, on which the Bureau can build. Chief Mark A. Kroeker sees this as a strong start towards building partnerships with the community to work on this issue.
The panel identified five main areas that will help reduce concerns regarding racial profiling. They are: recruitment, promotion and retention; communication; training; data collection; and accountability. Group members gave suggestions and examples of ways the Bureau can approach addressing each key area. The Blue Ribbon Panel charges the Bureau with further study and implementation of these recommendations.
Goal three of the Community Policing Strategic Plan is improving partnerships between the community and police through customer service and problem solving. Racial profiling constitutes an unlawful act and a serious community concern about how police services are performed. Formation of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Racial Profiling was a way of partnering with the community and addressing this concern.
If the community is not satisfied with the services they receive from the Bureau, then these concerns must be addressed. The goals of this panel are to articulate perspectives on racial profiling, form recommendations on ways of improving the police-community partnership, and suggest ways the Bureau can work to address this issue.
The issue of racial profiling has been the focus of national, state, as well as local attention. In 1998, Multnomah County put together a work group, representing various law enforcement agencies, to assess the operation of the justice system within the County regarding the over-representation of minorities in the criminal justice system, and to formulate an action plan for presentation to the Public Safety Coordinating Council.
In 1999 Attorney General Janet Reno encouraged police departments to gather more data on police stops in order to determine if racial profiling is a problem. At that same time federal legislation was introduced that would require the Attorney General to conduct a nationwide study of traffic stops, and report the findings to Congress.
With the passage of HB 2433 during the 1999 Oregon Legislature, the Traffic Stop Data Collection committee, of the Governor's Public Safety Planning and Policy Council was formed. Looking at data collection, and forming minimum standards for a voluntary data collection program, was the charge of this group. The committee will ask for commitments from Oregon policing agencies regarding data collection on traffic and subject stops. They are preparing to present data and findings to the 2001 state legislature.
In April 1999 the Portland Police Bureau, along with the metro area Chiefs and Sheriffs and the Superintendent of the State Police, joined together with their union and labor representatives to sign the Law Enforcement Non-Discrimination Resolution. This resolution took a strong stand against the practice of race-based profiling, or any type of discrimination within the scope of daily contact with community members.
In May 2000 Chief Mark A. Kroeker convened a panel of community members and police to study, discuss, and make recommendations on improving the police-community partnership with regard to racial profiling. This group is the Blue Ribbon Panel on Racial Profiling. As one member stated, "Racial profiling survives in a culture that accepts it. Just having this forum helps." The Bureau strongly believes that criminal behavior and/or activity is the driving force behind enforcement, and that race should not be the basis for stops or other types of police action.
The Blue Ribbon Panel on Racial Profiling includes community leaders and Bureau representatives. The following is a list of panel members appointed by Chief Kroeker:
Alma Soria Ayuso, Consul General of Mexico
Officer David Barrios, Gang Enforcement Team
Dr. Ben Canada, Portland Public Schools Superintendent
Tou Cha, OPS Manager, Outer SE Branch, Adult and Family Services
Norm Costa, Pride NW
Josiah Hill, Coalition of Black Men
Tom Johnston, Citizens Crime Commission
Sgt. Robert King, Portland Police Association President
Capt. Andrew Kirkland, Portland Police Commanding Officers Association
Elise Marshall, Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Vera Katz
Roy Pittman, African-American Advisory Council for the Portland Police Bureau
Officer Greg Pluchos, Portland Police Association Past President
Lolenzo Poe, Coalition of Black Men
Carlos Rivera, Hispanic Advisory Council for the Portland Police Bureau
P. Diane Schneider, Acting Regional Director, Community Relations Service
Oscar Sweeten-Lopez, Executive Director of Hispanic Access
Bishop Wells, Emmanuel Temple Full Gospel Pentecostal Church
Rev. Ronald Williams, Bethel AME Church
Over the course of several meetings, the panel reviewed research, listened to U.S. Senate sub-committee testimony , and read various articles. By reviewing this information, each member of the panel was ensured of having some background on racial profiling, and the work others are doing on this topic.
As the group went through this process, members shared personal and professional experiences related to profiling, expressing the varying effects profiling has on their lives. The panel believes that the vast majority of Portland police officers do not engage in racial profiling, but it was agreed that to some extent racial profiling does exist. The extent to which it exists will be explored through data collection and outreach to the community.
Finally, the group gave recommendations on the first steps towards building better partnerships with regard to racial profiling. These recommendations are meant to be building blocks, to identify areas for further investigation and discussion and to give the Bureau focus as it continues to address this concern.
The Bureau felt that having a representation of all perspectives was important, giving a greater understanding of the variety of viewpoints this topic elicits. Therefore, some of the recommendations that follow may contradict one another.
Definition of Racial Profiling
The definition of racial profiling agreed upon by the panel is as follows:
- The use of race as the sole basis for justifying traffic stops or other police action.
The following are the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Racial Profiling.
Recruitment, promotion, and retention
The Portland Police Bureau is fully diversified at all levels, with deep respect for all people. The Bureau emphasizes diversity in its recruitment and promotion practices to create a workforce representative of the community it serves.
Hire more minority officers. Create awareness among the minority communities regarding the Bureau's hiring needs. Ensure that hiring practices are inclusive, rather than exclusive.
Encourage minority individuals to become part of areas within the Bureau where there is current under-representation. Evaluate job classifications and assignments to assess the current level of under-representation and take steps to address it. Look for proportion, equity, throughout the Bureau, not just an increase in the current number of minority individuals working for the Bureau as a whole (i.e. minority individuals working at all levels of the Bureau including sworn and non-sworn positions). Examine standards and barriers to entry and promotion, making sure they do not exclude minorities. Continually monitor the process of recruiting, hiring, and promoting.
Recruit and promote people who possess qualities that are not easily taught. Individuals should be selected because they possess the ability to motivate others, in addition to having other skills that are not easily taught. They should also value quality customer service, and demonstrate this through their actions.
Learn from the minority employees who already work for the Bureau. Create a way for people to share their ideas and experience with decision-makers, so systems can be designed that will promote diversity. Validate those individuals who share their ideas, concerns and experience, listen and consider their suggestions. Continuously look for ways of improving existing systems, as well as maintaining the ones that are working well.
Community members and police have good dialogue on the crime and livability problems in their neighborhoods, and how those problems should be solved. They share mutual respect for each other in those conversations, and services are delivered in an environment free of discriminatory practices. Both community members and police view each other as human – with basic rights, needs and wants. Officers and other Bureau employees explain their actions to community members in every circumstance that they can, and community members explain to police about what is happening in their communities and how police can help.
Improve police communication with community members at the time of the stop or arrest. Officers need to explain to community members the reason for the stop or the reason for the arrest, and they need to explain to on-lookers, whenever possible, the reason for a stop or arrest.
Improve overall customer service. The Bureau should develop strategies to strengthen overall customer service throughout the organization, and to strengthen its customer service orientation. Ask existing Bureau advisory groups to develop recommendations for new strategies to improve customer service.
Create a complaint line for stops. The Bureau should support the creation of a neutral phone number for community members to call when wanting to report discriminatory practices during a police stop or an arrest. This phone line would operate independently from the Bureau. The information gathered through this line should be shared with the Internal Affairs Division for possible follow-up investigation. This would support a sense of "checks and balances" to the complaint system.
Use mediation as a way of resolving complaints. Mediation provides a way for everyone involved in a complaint to be heard. It also provides an opportunity for the people directly involved to resolve the situation in a timely fashion.
Communicate the result of the complaint process. The Bureau and the Police Internal Investigations Auditing Committee should improve their methods to communicate the results of complaints to the public so people are more informed on the types of complaints that are received and the outcome of the investigations of these complaints.
Training is consistent with the goal of eliminating racial profiling, and supports the value of communication. Every officer has the knowledge, skills and abilities to provide services free of discriminatory practices. The Bureau encourages ongoing education, especially that which focuses on diversity and customer service. Education and training will include more than just formal classroom education; it will have an informal element, such as on-the-job training and community involvement. All training and education is monitored, ensuring that learned principles are applied.
Conduct in-service training. The Bureau should ensure that all employees understand that discriminatory practices will not be tolerated. In-service training will include topics such as cultural diversity, customer service, and interpersonal conflict resolution skills. Additional topics for in-service training need to be community driven. It is important to monitor the quality and effectiveness of all training, especially that which relates to diversity. The Bureau should also provide incentives (i.e. acknowledgement) for officers who participate in these trainings.
Coordinate opportunities for exchange programs. Full immersion into another culture will build cultural awareness. Officers will become more sensitive to other cultures if they have experienced living in a culture other than their own.
Provide mentoring and coaching for all personnel. Instill the value of customer service free from racial profiling into the culture, by one-on-one problem solving and recognition of accomplishments. Plan on coaching people throughout their careers, not just during their probationary period. Ongoing coaching and mentoring allows supervisors to identify potential problems, and correct them in an expedient manner. Mentoring and coaching, as suggested here, are not intended as part of a disciplinary process, but as a way of helping develop people.
Create a system for monitoring training. Hold individuals accountable for the training they receive. Encourage sharing of new information, and implementation of learned techniques, principles and ideas. The responsibility of ensuring use of training falls not only on the trainees, but also on the supervisors. Develop a process for correcting behavior that is not consistent with training goals.
Encourage community involvement. Promote opportunities for officers to interact with residents outside their "enforcement" role. This informal "training" promotes understanding, breaks down barriers and reduces the "us" versus "them" phenomenon. Community involvement is also consistent with the vision for communication.
Data about the race and ethnicity of the people police stop or arrest is collected and analyzed to ensure that the stops and arrests are fair.
Implement the data collection recommendations from Oregon's Governor's Public Safety Planning and Policy Council. This council is requesting that Oregon policing agencies collect the information found below. Participating agencies' information will be compiled, and the findings shared with the 2001 Oregon State Legislature.
- Collect data on traffic stops, subject stops and conversations that include police action in the form of a search, citation or arrest.
- Collect the following information: perceived race, perceived gender, estimated age, reason for the stop, whether there was a search or frisk and the disposition of the action.
- The entire Bureau should be part of this process, not just a pilot project consisting of a small number of officers.
Work in cooperation with the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC), the Bureau's Data Processing Division and the Bureau's Planning and Support Division regarding data collection.
Research technology and funding sources. Look into other ways officers can enter the data without a Mobile Digital Computer (MDC) because some officers do not have easy access to MDCs (i.e. motorcycle officers, Mounted Patrol Unit officers, bicycle patrol officers). One type of hardware that is on the market is an automated citation device, which not only records the necessary data, but also generates and prints the citation for the officer.
Bureau members and community members alike are aware of expectations with respect to racial profiling, specifically that it will not be tolerated. The Bureau conducts outreach, and the community is aware of the Bureau's efforts regarding this concern.
Clearly define Bureau expectations. This recommendation ties in to the recommendations for communication; training; and recruitment, promotion, and retention. The Bureau should communicate clear expectations and the consequences if those expectations are not met. Use these expectations as guidelines for creating training plans.
Hold individuals at all levels of the Bureau accountable. This means that accountability is not just for officers or for the leadership, but for all officers and leaders, sworn and non-sworn. Every member of the Bureau is held to these same standards and expectations.
Conduct outreach efforts in the community. The Bureau should build awareness of expectations and efforts around the issue of racial profiling.
The Bureau must now make decisions regarding the implementation of these recommendations. It may be beneficial to look at the work produced by other groups, both nationally and locally, who are researching and making recommendations related to this issue. The Bureau should continue looking into how improvements can be made to adequately address this issue.
One Year Review
The Blue Ribbon Panel should convene quarterly for an open meeting in the community. Review of these recommendations, as well as the impact these recommendations have made on their communities should happen at the meetings. The Bureau and community should also look at the data collection and outreach efforts, seeing what changes have occurred and what still needs to occur.