Sheriff discusses traffic-stop data for Washington County
Sheriff Pat Garrett says his staff will consider why Washington County deputies issued tickets to Hispanic drivers at a slightly higher than predicted rate, based on a recent state analysis of traffic stops by Oregon's 12 largest police agencies.
Garrett discussed the findings at a session with the board of commissioners on Dec. 17.
The analysis of traffic stops, conducted by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, concluded that Washington County deputies issued tickets to Hispanic drivers in 32.1% of stops, compared with a predicted 28%.
Of nearly 30,000 stops by Washington County deputies between July 1, 2018, and June 30 of this year, Garrett said that a stop resulted in a ticket less than one-third of the time, about 29%. (Whites accounted for almost 20,000 stops; Hispanics, 5,207.)
Searches resulted in 3.2% of the total stops, and arrests 3.3%.
Garrett said deputies will issue tickets when drivers fail to show they have a valid license or are insured.
He said it was too early to say whether a new law, which takes effect in January 2021, will eventually reduce the number of drivers with no license or a suspended or expired license.
The new law would allow the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division (DMV) to issue licenses without requiring legal proof of presence in the United States, as is provided in a 2008 law. The law was passed by the 2019 Legislature, but anti-immigration critics seek to restore proof of legal presence by gathering signatures for a statewide vote in the November 2020 general election.
The Legislature passed a similar law in 2013, but critics petitioned to put it to voters, who rejected it in 2014, and the law never took effect.
Garrett did say that searches yield contraband about 60% of the time.
"This signals to us that we are not out on fishing expeditions," he said. "They are based on facts and behavior before we engage on any kind of search. This data from the Criminal Justice Commission backs that up."
The commission analysis looked at traffic stops over one year by Oregon's 12 largest agencies, each with 100 or more uniformed officers. Among them are three counties and four cities in the Portland metro area, plus the Oregon State Police.
Traffic-stop data has been gathered in Oregon since 2001, with a hiatus in 2003-05, but a 2017 law made it mandatory in stages for all police agencies in Oregon. Data for smaller agencies will be gathered and analyzed in the next two stages.
Board Chairwoman Kathryn Harrington said law enforcement must work hand in hand with people in Oregon's most diverse county.
"It's very clear to me that performance is at equitable rates, and there is a finding that you are going to be following up," she said. "You help ensure that the community is well served."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.