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Traffic - Talking Beat

Traffic is a popular topic for officers at community meetings and whether you travel by vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, foot, bus, streetcar, MAX train or scooter, you're navigating Portland's roads with a lot of other users out on the road as well. 

Also we answer the question: Why do police park on the sidewalk, block MAX tracks or block traffic when responding to calls?

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TRANSCRIPT:

Announcer:
Welcome to Talking Beat, the podcast for the Portland Police Bureau. We're focusing on thoughtful conversations that we hope will inform and provide you with a small glimpse of the work performed by Portland police officers as well as issues affecting public safety in our city. Here's what's on today's show.

Host:
Not to be rude, but nobody really wants to see you guys in their rear view mirror behind the amount of bike. You guys are like right behind the dentist.

Sgt. Engstrom:
We give a lot of leeway. I mean, if we wanted to go out and write tickets for five miles an hour over the speed limit, we could do that all day long. So if we stop you, that means you've pushed it real far.

Announcer:
This episode of The Talking Beat is brought to you by ... Through the good work of the Portland Police Sunshine Division, officers are able to bring emergency food to people 24/7. Sunshine Division also operates two warehouses where community members in need can access free food and clothing. Learn more at sunshinedivision.org. Now, onto the show.

Host:
We're talking about traffic on today's podcast. It's a popular topic for officers at community meetings and whether you travel by vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, foot, bus, street, car, MAX train, or scooter, you're navigating Portland's roads with a lot of other users. Out on the road as well are Portland police traffic officers. Two are here today to talk about all issues traffic, Officer Ty Engstrom and Officer Chris Johnson. Ty, let's start with you. Tell me about your job and what you do each day.

Sgt. Engstrom:
Sure. I'm a supervisor in the Traffic Division. I've been in the Traffic Division for almost a little over seven years total time, almost eight years actually. I supervise the patrol side of the Traffic Division. We have a few sergeants that all divide up the responsibilities and we have officers that we have stewardship over. And so we work together with them with regards to enforcement, education, traffic investigations for crashes, and DUI investigations.

Sgt. Engstrom:
Those kinds of things surround the bulk of what we do on a daily basis. And then we also spend a lot of time helping out with special events, so parades, protests, sporting events, things like that. Anything that's going to impact our day to day commuting and traffic related staff, they usually call us to come help out in some way.

Host:
And you ride a motorcycle?

Sgt. Engstrom:
I do.

Host:
Which kind?

Sgt. Engstrom:
We ride BMW 1200s, so RT 1200s.

Host:
People are fascinated that we have motor out there in all weather. Is it difficult on on Portland's rainy days?

Sgt. Engstrom:
You know, it is. In fact today, I was laying in bed this morning and the rain was just pounding and I thought to myself, ah, you know, I've gotta get on that motorcycle. And I was very tempted to drive in instead. But you know, it's not too bad. You get pretty used to it. We get pretty good gear to use, heated hand grips, heated seat. Those things kind of help out a little bit.

Sgt. Engstrom:
There's always a warm shower at the end of the day so you get a little bit used to it. But it definitely, when it's raining and it's 35 degrees outside or something like that, it can be a little rough on those particular days. But then again, during those summer and early fall months when it's just beautiful outside, it's pretty fun to ride those bikes. So unless it's snowy or icy, we're pretty much on our motorcycles.

Host:
In the intro, as I said, traffic is one of the things that community members really care about. Why do you think it's such a hot button?

Sgt. Engstrom:
Whether it's a short distance or a longer distance, most people have to go somewhere on a daily basis and whether that's by car, or bicycle, or on foot, or scooters, or buses, or whatever, most people get a good taste of what it's like out there in our traffic community. And with that, there's a lot of crashes. There's a lot of inpatient drivers, there's a lot of people that are distracted on the roadways. And each year we have a large number of people that are, in fact, seriously injured or even killed on our roadways.

Sgt. Engstrom:
And those impact a lot of people. It's not just impacting the lives of the people that are involved in the collisions, but their families, their friends, and the people who witnessed those events. And so it impacts a lot of people in a lot of different ways. And so I think it's something that's probably pretty important to most people is traffic safety.

Host:
What's the top worst behavior you see?

Sgt. Engstrom:
I think there is quite a bit of distracted driving out there. Our current laws talk about electronic device use that is specifically prohibited. However, there's a lot of other distractions out there. It's not just those things. Maybe those are the ones that are specifically included in the laws.

Sgt. Engstrom:
You can't use your cell phone or your iPod or whatever while you're driving, but then again, we have those situations where we've got the lap dog sitting in right in front of your face, or we've got someone driving their car with their knee so that they can put their makeup on in the mirror. There's a number of different distractions.

Sgt. Engstrom:
So I think distractions play a large role and then also speed. Many studies have gone to look at speed and that's a high contributor to crashes. And if we reduce the speeds, the amount of safety that is a result of that is exponential. It's pretty evident that as you increase speed, your likelihood of serious injury, especially if you're a pedestrian and you're involved in a collision, if you're hit by a car, your risk of serious injury or fatality goes up pretty exponentially with small increments in speed increasing.

Host:
I want to go back to distracted driving for a moment because I think we all focus on texting. First of all, the law says you can't even touch your phone, correct?

Sgt. Engstrom:
Yeah, that's correct. Even if it's totally turned off, you can't hold it in your hand. The law does allow you to use a single touch or a single swipe to activate or deactivate the phone or an app. So an example would be, let's say I've got my phone in a cradle up on by the dashboard and somebody's calling in, and I can hit accept or I can turn off the phone afterward by hitting end or ignore the phone call.

Sgt. Engstrom:
So I can do a single touch or single swipe. Or maybe I want to start my map route. I've already plugged in the location before I started driving. Now I'm ready to use that map. I can hit start to activate or deactivate the apps. So you can touch it in certain circumstances, but you cannot hold it in your hand.

Host:
We focus on the texting and the talking on our phones, but I've seen people shaving, reading their paper, eating a hamburger. You can cite them for that too?

Sgt. Engstrom:
Not under that ORS, that's Oregon Revised Statute. Not under that particular law, but we have other laws that can take into account those types of behaviors. Careless driving is a pretty all-encompassing type of law where if they're doing anything that can put other people in danger, then depending on the level of that danger and the level of their actions, it could either be a violation of careless driving or it can be a crime of reckless driving, which a crime they can actually go to jail for.

Sgt. Engstrom:
So it depends on how serious it is and whether they're doing other things in conjunction with that. They're eating their hamburger and drinking their soda, and they're swerving all over the road, and they just ran a red light because they weren't paying attention.

Host:
Over the years, have driving habits changed with marijuana becoming legal, with telephones and the advances in technology? Do we see more distracted driving? Do we see people driving under the influence?

Sgt. Engstrom:
Absolutely. When we didn't have all these cellular phones, that wasn't as big of an issue. I'm sure there were other distractions back then, but that definitely has become a huge part of people's lives and they feel very connected to their devices and it's pretty hard for people to get along without them, even if it's for a short commute down the road. So that definitely plays a big role.

Sgt. Engstrom:
And then with the legalization of marijuana, both in Oregon and Washington, there has been an increase in the number of people that are driving while impaired. And that's definitely something that we're learning more and more about as we go. But Portland does have a good size group of officers that are certified as drug recognition experts or evaluators, that they go through specialized training to make sure that they're able to differentiate between the different types of drugs that people could possibly have in their system when they're displaying impairment.

Sgt. Engstrom:
We're doing what we can to help combat that and we want to get the word out that sometimes you might not feel impaired, whether it's by alcohol or by the drugs. Maybe you feel pretty good, but our advice is always if you're going to use any of those substances, whether it's alcohol or or some legalized drugs, that it's better to just not drive at all afterward. Get a friend, get an Uber, get a taxi, whatever.

Host:
We focus a lot on driving behavior, but there's also the vulnerable road users. There's bicyclists, there's scooters, there's pedestrians. And last year we had a significant number that were either injured or killed. They play a role as well. What can they do to stay safe?

Sgt. Engstrom:
So anybody that's not in a car, they're not protected by that steel and metal all wrapped around them, and airbags and such. So they're pretty vulnerable. I'm not going to say that it's all the car's fault, all the bicyclist's fault, all the pedestrian's fault. It's everybody together. Everyone needs to take an effort and take a step towards making our roads more safe, and everyone needs to take their safety into their hands as well.

Sgt. Engstrom:
I ride a motorcycle for a living. I'm riding a motorcycle almost every day in rain and bad weather, in fog, and I ride my motorcycle as if everyone is out to get me. It may seem kind of harsh to say that, but I have to ride that way to make sure that I can go home at night to my family. So I just anticipate, oh I'm sure that person's going to cut me off. I just anticipate it and when it doesn't happen, great. But when it does happen, I'm not surprised by it.

Sgt. Engstrom:
And so I would say the same thing about everybody else, whether you're in a car, on a motorcycle, a bike or walking, you need to just assume that nobody sees you and act that way, and not just step out in the road because hey, it's marked crosswalk. I can be here.

Host:
I know. I see that behavior a lot and I think people wear all black, they have the choice to wear all black, but then they dart across the street. And they may have the walk signal and they may have the right to wear all black, but the bottom line is, I can't see you. So I guess you can be right, but you can also be dead right.

Sgt. Engstrom:
Yeah. That happened to me this morning on my way into work. It's pouring down rain, it's dark, and I was coming along the road. And Saint John's just a few blocks from our office, and I happened to notice a person walking on the sidewalk. They weren't trying to cross or anything, but I saw this person dressed in all black and they're walking. So their arms and legs are moving, but I did not see them until I was almost right next to them, right alongside of them.

Sgt. Engstrom:
We weren't going to collide, they weren't crossing or anything, but it just caught me off guard that I didn't even see that person until I was probably within five, 10 feet of being on the same plane as they were, parallel to them. And maybe Chris can address this a little bit as they've done some studies recently in our Traffic Investigative Unit about visibility because of the number of pedestrians that we've had that have been hit.

Ofc. Johnson:
So I work in the Traffic Investigations Unit, which is like a subdivision of the traffic division. And so my role, we call it TIU. That's more of just the investigative side of traffic. My primary duties are the investigation of fatal and serious injury collisions. And then I also work on hit and run cases and sometimes those blend together. The pedestrians often think that they are seen at twice the distance that they truly are by the driver.

Ofc. Johnson:
And so my feeling is pedestrians need to have a role of making themselves more visible because the driver as they're driving, what they're picking up on is going to be movement or some sort of visibility, being able to identify something out there in the road. And they're scanning and sometimes the wipers are going, it's raining, it's dark. Sometimes the dash lights are there so they can't see as well as a pedestrian often thinks they're being seen.

Sgt. Engstrom:
In some of these studies that they've done, I've heard some of the other TIU investigators mention how first of all, they'll put an officer out there and then one officer will drive a car and kind of creep up until they feel like they can see that that is a person up there. And then they'll measure the distance and they'll look at those things and you guys are taking into account reaction time and stuff, right?

Ofc. Johnson:
Yeah. Then we add into that reaction time, perception reaction time, and it's amazing sometimes when you're out there and you're standing approximately where the person is hit and then the car is coming. We slowly roll the car up with the headlights and it is subjective where the driver thinks they can identify a shoulder line or something else visible on the person, but it's amazing how close sometimes when you're behind the wheel before you can actually identify somebody there in the road.

Host:
So let's talk about investigations. You guys go through a lot of training and you have a lot of equipment. Tell me a little bit more about how you go about investigating fatal and serious crashes.

Ofc. Johnson:
Well, I've been in traffic investigations for 15 years and it started off with going to some basic classes put on by the Institute of Police Traffic Management. It's based out of Florida, University of Florida. And so they offer classes around the country. That kind of gives you the basic core levels of collision reconstruction. That is what I do, is a field of collision reconstruction. That's one component of it.

Ofc. Johnson:
With that training, then we also go to pedestrian classes, pedestrian bike classes, motorcycle classes. You can get into the field of commercial vehicles. So I've been to a lot of those other classes. So the basic core kind of gets you kind of what I call that high school education and then you got to keep moving on. And so it's a continual process of learning.

Host:
And it's far more technical than people think.

Ofc. Johnson:
It is, and that's what appeals to me. I mean, of course there's personal tragedy when you're investigating these cases, but if you can look beyond that, it's actually interesting work because you're dealing with a little bit of the physical world, getting back to Newton's laws and how that applies to friction and just what causes a crash. And then the engineering deals with cars and then there's the whole investigative side.

Ofc. Johnson:
It is interesting because you're just getting into, why did this crash happen? Who was at fault? Because sometimes it's not entirely clear. There's some gray areas about like, for example, who ran the stop sign if there was a four way stop? Or how easily was that pedestrian seen or was there some other issue at play like overhead street lighting? Was it a road design issue? How much of a driver factor was involved in the crash?

Host:
It seems like after a crash, if you have to close down a road it takes some time. So explain to people that get frustrated that we're closed down a road for a significant length of time, why it takes so long.

Ofc. Johnson:
The Portland Police Bureau has a major crash team and unlike other agencies in the area, Portland has a team that's specifically just for the Portland area. And so when there is a fatal or serious injury collision, the team goes out and we have a van that we drive and then we respond to the scene. The decision maker, what we call pushing the button, will get paged. Often, it could be like two in the morning.

Ofc. Johnson:
And then once we get there, usually the scene is pretty locked down. Patrol has already closed the roadway and then we start to do our work. There's going to be officers in this team who are going to start working on probably a search warrant for the car, search warrant for the driver, driver's blood to see if there was any impairment. Then my role, I'll get there and I'll start probably examining roadway evidence. I'll get a brief synopsis of how the crash happened, what witnesses had said occurred, but you can't always trust witnesses.

Ofc. Johnson:
And so you have to also look at the roadway evidence. Does it fit with what the witnesses are saying? And I start marking evidence, and then once that's done, then we can start scanning the scene. If I'm comfortable with, I've highlighted and noted all the evidence, then we break out what's a called a FARO. And it's a 3D scanner and then once you get several different scan points, we can mesh that all together with a computer software and get a good 3D view of what the scene looks like.

Host:
So probably the advances in technology have really helped you guys.

Ofc. Johnson:
Yeah, absolutely. We've come from an age where we were just doing what we call baseline, we're out there with tape measures and bricks holding down the tape on a windy day, to what we call a total station, that's kind of basically surveying equipment, to now we're up to the 3D scanners. And in the future maybe we'll have drones or unmanned aerial vehicles.

Sgt. Engstrom:
Yeah, we just had a presentation on that just recently from Oregon State Police. They're actually using them on their major crashes and they can put out just a phenomenal product in a much shorter period of time. So your original question, Terry, you're talking about the people that are getting stuck on the roadways and stuff and maybe we're having to shut down a freeway or something like that. So these advances in technology are helping us to try and get the scene cleared up as quickly as possible.

Sgt. Engstrom:
And it's important to understand that if that person who is stuck in traffic, if it was their loved one, if it was their family member, I'm sure that they would want us to put together the best product we can for the investigation, for the potential of a criminal prosecution against the driver if there is somebody that's criminally at fault. So we're really trying to do the best job we can for all parties involved. And sometimes that just takes time and I know it can be frustrating.

Host:
And moving away from the science part of it and talking about the human part of it. Without getting too graphic, I know that officers roll up on some really horrific scenes. Crashes aren't kind to the human body. What kind of toll does that take on officers and what do you do to prepare for that and manage that in your own personal life?

Ofc. Johnson:
For me, I think it's just a mindset that I have a job to do when I get there. So maybe it's compartmentalizing. You don't focus too much on the emotional part of it. When I'm there I'm trying to be objective and part of that objectivity is just kind of maybe setting aside those feelings and we're here, we have a job to do. And in some cases, we're trying to seek justice for the victim or the victim's family. So that kind of takes precedent.

Ofc. Johnson:
I guess you can think about it later after you get home. You think about the tragedy and what that family is feeling right now as they have just learned that their loved one has been killed, or seriously injured, or they're going to the hospital. And sometimes, especially like with kids, when kids are killed, that definitely touches deep down in your emotions, especially if you have kids.

Host:
So do you channel that emotion when you guys are out doing enforcement work? I mean at some point, at some level, it's got to make you angry if somebody's behavior, if you just know that those lives would've been saved if somebody slows down or something. So now you're out enforcing and not to be rude, but nobody really wants to see you guys in their rear view mirror behind them on a bike. You guys are like right behind the dentist. And you pull up and first of all, how do you plan enforcement missions? Do you focus on behaviors or do you focus on an area? And how do you go about that?

Sgt. Engstrom:
We focus on both those things. One of my responsibilities within the Traffic Division is to review all of the enforcement requests that we get. And whenever someone has an issue in their neighborhood or wherever they start to see some speeders or anything like that, they can contact 503-823-SAFE, and that is the city's hotline number where they can leave their information and someone can get back to them and to get more details about what's going on. But those get entered into the system and then anything that's enforcement related gets read by me.

Sgt. Engstrom:
So I go through all of those and I have to triage them based on some of our goals, our priorities, our missions, what is our focus as a Traffic Division, as a bureau, as a whole, and as a city? What I'm looking for are areas on the high crash corridor. A small percentage of the roadways in Portland account for a vast majority of the serious injury and fatal crashes. So we call those our high crash network of streets.

Sgt. Engstrom:
So when I'm looking at these enforcement requests, I'm looking at high crash corridors. Is this an area where there's a lot of crashes? Is this an area where there's a lot of fatalities or serious injuries? Or an area with a lot of violations that impact a lot of people? That's what I'm looking for when I'm trying to decide which of these we're gonna assign out. And so once I get some of those that I'm going to assign out, I'll send them out to different officers and ask them to spend some time at those areas individually.

Sgt. Engstrom:
And then usually once a week we'll get together, me and several officers, and we'll do a mission together. And maybe I'll select from that list, or maybe I'll select an area from a recent fatal crash, or something that gets a lot of complaints. Maybe I've got two or three different complaints from different people all about the same location. So we'll go together and spend some time at those areas.

Sgt. Engstrom:
Now, the day to day operation of our officers, they get to go out and just, they can work wherever they see fit. They're encouraged to spend time on those high crash corridors where we're having a lot of issues and some of those big busy streets, but if they've got a particular area that they have seen that's a problem, they can go work those areas as well. So yes, we're looking at areas, but then we're also looking at behaviors.

Sgt. Engstrom:
We've talked a little bit already about speeding and about distracted driving. Those are some of the hot buttons right now, some of the things that are foremost on the focus of the bureau at Traffic Division and also from the city. The city has recently adopted a program called Vision Zero, which is the city's goals to reduce the number of serious injury and fatal crashes down to zero by 2025. And they're doing that through several different avenues. One is enforcement, that's our part where we help out, and education. We also help out with that as well.

Sgt. Engstrom:
And then engineering. So the city's trying to do anything they can to make the streets safer either by redesign or changing the roadways in some way to help the traffic flow better and be a little more safe. And then equity as well, which means that we're trying to spread out the enforcement throughout the city and not just impacting one specific area. We don't want a group or a community to be disproportionately impacted by our enforcement efforts. And so we're trying to spread it out throughout the city.

Sgt. Engstrom:
And usually when we do a mission, I'll pick a mission in Central Precinct, and then maybe next week we'll move out to East Precinct and then North Precinct, kind of spread it out a little bit. And our afternoon shift crew tries to do the same thing and have missions as often as possible.

Host:
Okay. Let's answer the question once and for all, do you guys have a quota?

Sgt. Engstrom:
We do not have a quota. There are certain grants that we receive from ODOT and they're paying us to be out there and to be visible, and to contact people with regards to their behavior. So for those particular grants, when officers are working those grants on their own time, they're encouraged to have a certain number of enforcement contacts per hour, but that doesn't always have to be a ticket. That can be a warning. The point is to get out there and work.

Sgt. Engstrom:
We're traffic officers, this is our job, and if we're not doing anything during that whole hour, then what good are we to the community? So it's our goal to be out there and just contact as many people as possible and help to make an impact in that particular area.

Host:
In all honesty, it's not a true moneymaker for us. The money gets split among a lot of different areas and agencies, correct?

Sgt. Engstrom:
Yeah. Portland is a very large city. Some of the smaller communities, they're allowed to keep a greater portion of the money if they're a small municipality and things like that. But when you're a city the size of Portland, the majority of those fines go back to the General Fund for the state of Oregon. So it's not like the Portland Police Bureau or the Traffic Division is getting huge portion of that money when it comes to us going out there and stopping people.

Host:
So tell me about some of the dangers officers face when they're pulling somebody over.

Sgt. Engstrom:
You know, it's often said that traffic stops are perhaps one of the most dangerous things we do as police officers. It's just a complete unknown. There's no such thing as a routine traffic stop. You really have no idea who's in that car. It can be a totally nice looking car and a nice looking person in there and maybe they're just having a really bad day, or maybe they're suffering from a mental illness, or maybe they've just had a bad breakup or a domestic situation. You have no idea what you're walking up on.

Sgt. Engstrom:
So as a police officer, we need to be ready for that. We need to have a mindset of, this could turn into something big. And we don't want it to, we would much rather go up, contact the person, have a good encounter and move on with our day. But not only is it an unknown with regards to the person that's in the car, we can't be watching with our head on a swivel facing every direction at all times. And especially if we're on some busy roadway or something like that, oftentimes the other people on the road, the other traffic is a huge risk to us as well.

Sgt. Engstrom:
Many officers have been killed standing on the side of the road talking to somebody at a traffic stop. So it's a pretty dangerous thing and our officers do it quite often, and they practice it, and they develop what feels right to them and what feels safe to them. Oftentimes I'll maybe contact on the passenger side or step away from traffic on the other side of the car. So we try and take different steps to mitigate some of those dangers. But it's definitely a dangerous thing.

Host:
Cars are required to move over though if they can, if there's another lane.

Sgt. Engstrom:
Yes. Yeah, there's a law, fail to maintain a safe distance from an emergency vehicle. So they are required to move over if there's a lane to their side or at least slow down quite a bit. And that's for any emergency vehicle on the side of the road, police, fire, medical, tow trucks, ambulance. Yeah.

Host:
So what's the best excuse you've ever heard?

Sgt. Engstrom:
Best excuse? Oh, I don't want to give away too many ideas for people to try and use or anything like that. But sometimes you can tell that they're trying to come up with something and sometimes there's been some genuine good excuses out there.

Host:
Okay, let's say the worst. What's the worst excuse you've ever heard?

Sgt. Engstrom:
The worst? Oh boy.

Ofc. Johnson:
I had one gal that I had stopped for speeding once and her rationale was, "Well, if I go faster I'll save gas because I'm getting there quicker." Doesn't work.

Host:
You probably can't tell me this either, but how do you decide whether to give a citation versus a warning?

Sgt. Engstrom:
Well sure. I can't speak for all officers, but I will say that the majority of traffic officers probably feel the same way as me, that we give a lot of leeway. If we wanted to go out and write tickets for a five miles an hour over the speed limit, we could do that all day long. Everybody's driving over the speed limit. And so the majority of traffic officers give quite a bit of leeway when it comes to speeding.

Sgt. Engstrom:
I'm not going to say a specific number because I don't want to give a magic number out to everybody and say, "Oh, it's okay to go this fast because you're not going to get a ticket." But we give a lot of leeway. So if we stop you, that means you've pushed it real far. And same thing with a lot of violations. Running red lights or things like that, I have a certain guideline for myself when the light turns red, where the position of the car is kind of a thing, and we give people a lot of leeway.

Sgt. Engstrom:
So generally if I stop you, the plan is for me to give you a ticket. Now, oftentimes I work with people. My goal personally, my goal is not to punish people and impact their lives and their livelihood with a bunch of fines and things like that. That's not what I really want to do. I want to have licensed, insured, safe drivers on the road, those three things. License, insurance, safe drivers. So if I can help them understand that and change their attitudes and behaviors with regards to those topics in some other way, then I'm all about that.

Sgt. Engstrom:
We have a number of different classes we can offer to send people to. Sometimes it's something that they need to get fixed with their car or they need to make sure they have the right proof of insurance or different things like that. Maybe they're license status was suspended and they didn't know it or things like that. So I'm willing to work with people lots of times on those things. Is every single person that I stop going to get a ticket? No. However, I'm letting a lot of people go by that aren't quite meeting the threshold that I've set for myself. And so that's kind of like a bunch of warnings going by I guess.

Host:
There's one behavior that I want to highlight that you and I have talked about before, and I don't know if people know the law and they're just disobeying it or if they just think it's legal, and that is the motorcycles that come between two lanes. What's it called, lane splitting?

Sgt. Engstrom:
Lane splitting? Yeah, good one. That has come up a couple of different times in legislation trying to get something like that passed both in Oregon and Washington. And so sometimes I'll hear people say, "Oh, I thought it was legalized. I heard all about it last year," or something like that. But it has not passed in either state. So in Oregon and Washington, you still must stay within your lane of travel.

Sgt. Engstrom:
You can't ... Oftentimes we see it when there's congestion. So northbound I-5 or something in the afternoon when everybody's backed up and you'll get some motorcycles just cruising right up on the shoulder or maybe they're cruising in between lanes and doing the actual lane splitting. Both are illegal. You cannot do that. You must drive within your lane.

Host:
Okay. Well, I have a real serious question to ask you guys. We embrace our stereotypes on this podcast. So what's your favorite donut, Ty?

Sgt. Engstrom:
These days, I like a good old fashioned one that's just slightly crispy on the outside but pretty good and doughy on the inside. So for a while I didn't want to perpetuate stereotypes and so maybe I wouldn't eat doughnuts in uniform, but hey, embrace it.

Ofc. Johnson:
I'm not a donut guy, but I am a sucker for scones.

Host:
Oh, scones. What kind?

Ofc. Johnson:
I just had a blueberry scone.

Host:
Well, thanks for stopping by today, guys.

Sgt. Engstrom:
Yeah, you're welcome.

Host:
Be safe out there.

Sgt. Engstrom:
Anytime.

Announcer:
We'll be right back. Did you know you can report some crimes online? Remember, if it's an emergency, always call 911. But if you want to report a non-emergency crime such as a non-injury hit and run, theft, or other crimes, or need to report lost property or graffiti, go to portlandpolice.com to learn more on how to submit an online police report. Now, back to our show. Now it's time for Tough Questions, our segment where we answer your toughest questions regarding policing or public safety.

Sgt. Simpson:
The question for today is, why do police park on the sidewalk, block MAX, or block traffic when responding to calls? You know, we get this question sometimes and people respond on Twitter or Facebook with a photo of a police car parked somewhere it shouldn't be, and there's often a very indignant question and response. It's understandable because people might see a police car parked in a handicap spot in front of a store.

Sgt. Simpson:
Officers, when they're responding to calls, are trying to get there as quickly and as safely as possible and going to address whatever the call is or whatever the issue is going on. What they're probably not going to do is look for a parking place and circle the block like any of us would do when we're driving downtown Portland or going to the shopping center. Their job is to get there quick and safe and get inside and deal with the problem.

Sgt. Simpson:
And sometimes that means parking on the sidewalk or blocking traffic because of a crash, or the MAX line, or there just isn't any parking at all because the streets are full. We do encourage officers, when the scene is secure and things are safe, to try to get cars out of the street and get cars off of roadways so that traffic can flow because we know that people see red and blue lights flashing or cars blocking, it's going to slow down traffic for everyone.

Sgt. Simpson:
But if an officer is using the sidewalk or parking in a no parking zone or blocking the street because they're going to pick up a Subway sandwich, that would be inappropriate and that's something we do like to deal with.

Announcer:
Thanks for listening to The Talking Beat. Do you have a question for us? You can call and leave a message on our dedicated voicemail line at (971) 339-8868 or send us an email to talkingbeat@portlandoregon.gov. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your friends. More episodes can be found at our website, portlandoregon.gov/police/podcast.