PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Police in Portland, Oregon, stopped a disproportionate number of Black motorists last year, even as they pulled over fewer drivers overall in 2020 compared with 2019.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Black people, who made up about 8% of the city’s population, made up nearly 12.6% of drivers stopped by traffic officers in 2020, according to Portland police data released this week. Latino drivers accounted for 11.2% of traffic stops in 2020 and make up around 10% of the population in the city.
Nearly 7,000 — or 28% — of the total stops made were Black or Latino drivers. According to the most recent Census Bureau estimates, from 2019, Black and Latino residents make up about 17% of the city’s population.
During the past five years, Portland police officers have stopped significantly more people of color behind the wheel and fewer white drivers on city streets, the data shows, though not all drivers stopped are necessarily residents of Portland.
Portland officers made 24,991 driver stops across the city in 2020, a 24% decrease from the previous year. The decline is attributed to fewer drivers on the road because of the pandemic, reduced police availability as resources shifted to the near nightly demonstrations last summer and changes to traffic enforcement in 2020.
The Portland Police Bureau has since taken steps to reduce addressing minor violations in an attempt to address the disparate effect on Black residents. As of June 2021, officers have been directed to focus traffic enforcement efforts on high crash corridors, reckless driving, speed enforcement and other moving violations that place people in immediate danger.
They’re not to focus on stopping motorists for low-level infractions, such as equipment failures or expired plates, to reduce disproportionate stops of people of color. And if police do stop drivers, officers must explain that the motorist can deny a request to search their cars.
As of this spring, the Police Bureau no longer has a dedicated traffic division of officers, as they were pulled to fill vacancies in patrol.