The Oregonian

Residents on Tuesday urged Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to put her full weight behind a new state law to curb police profiling.

Several dozen people gathered at the Portland Building downtown to share  experiences with Rosenblum and Department of Justice officials, describing tense and at times terrifying encounters with police.

For more than two hours, distressed residents told stories of being targeted by officers who were supposed to protect them. Some said they were questioned because they were African American. Others said they were arrested because they were transgender.

"What we have in Portland is totally incompetent oversight," Portland NAACP President Jo Ann Hardesty said. "We do not have a reliable system to hold police accountable."

Quinton Blandon, a student at George Fox University who is African American, recalled an incident in Newberg in 2012. He said an officer drew a gun on him, chased him and twisted his arm for supposedly walking in the street, even though he said he was not.

"I felt the rotator cuff tear out of my arm," Blandon said.

Later, he said, another officer called him the N-word.

"I know things will not change overnight," Blandon said. "But I think a great change to start is holding law enforcement accountable."

Jersey Deutsch, 30, who identifies as transgender, said Portland police pulled him over for speeding in 2013 and arrested him when the name he gave didn't match his ID.

"He told me I was being arrested for lying to an officer," Deutsch said.

In jail, Deutsch said officers taunted him in front of inmates.

"While he was frisking me, he kept asking what was between my legs," Deutsch said. "They were using derogatory language to talk about my genitalia."

The meeting came as a state task force works to implement a bill passed in the 2015 legislative session to create a new system for tracking and investigating profiling claims.

House Bill 2002, signed by Gov. Kate Brown in July, defines profiling as any instance where an officer targets someone based on a defining characteristic such as race, age, national origin, sexual orientation or homelessness.

The bill, backed by civil liberties groups, came in the wake of a national uproar over the killing of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. A Portland Police Bureau report also released that year showed African American drivers were stopped at a higher rate when compared to census and accident data estimates.

The issue continues to captivate national attention. A recent New York Times article examining the four states that best track traffic stops found that African American drivers were more likely to be pulled over, even though police found contraband less often. 

Officials are still deciding how Oregon's system will work. Rosenblum's group is scheduled to submit a report to the Legislature by Dec. 1. on ways to track incidents, to train and to hold police accountable.

"Tonight definitely had a huge impact on me," Rosenblum said after the meeting. "I thought I'd heard it all." 


AuthorChristine Saunders