CCSO responds to report showing racial disparities in policing
Clackamas County Sheriff's officials say their executive team will analyze and respond to the results of a recently published report that singled out the agency for disparities in certain metrics used to assess bias in traffic and pedestrian stops.
Following a story from Pamplin Media's news partner Oregon Public Broadcasting, the sheriff's office responded to a request for comment saying they plan to work with the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission — the agency which authored the report — to better understand the data it collected this previous year, and noted that there might be some discrepancy between what was reported and what actually took place.
"We are learning that we may have included some data that wasn't required to be reported. This may have contributed to the results," wrote Sgt. Marcus Mendoza, CCSO public information officer. "We will be working closely with the Criminal Justice Commission to examine this in greater detail. If we need to implement a change in the collection of data or any change in our procedures, we will do so."
Mendoza said that CCSO cares deeply about issues of racial justice and is committed to learning from the data collected by the state's Statistical Transparency of Policing (STOP) report, an annual publication commissioned in 2017 with the passage of Senate Bill 2355.
Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard commented on the report Wednesday, saying that the data appears to bring important information to light for the county to evaluate. "The county is committed to addressing disparities by looking at our policies and practices within every department," Bernard said.
As first reported by OPB's Jonathan Levinson, the state report found Clackamas County deputies had both a notable rate of unsuccessful searches and disparities in how they treated drivers after they were stopped. The report shows that of the 2,802 Latinx people CCSO stopped between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, nearly 38% were cited, searched or arrested. That's compared to 34.4% for white people stopped in similar situations. For the 1,227 Black people stopped, 37% were cited, searched or arrested compared to 32.4% of white people.
The criminal justice commission used three methods to assess for bias in police-civilian interactions. They compared the racial and ethnic breakdown of stops during daytime and nighttime on the assumption that officers can more readily discern race when it's light out. The report also looked at whether or not a person is cited, searched or arrested, and how often a search finds anything illegal in the person's possession.
Most significantly, while deputies with the Clackamas sheriff's office improved their success rate in contraband searches of both Black and white people — suggesting officers were being more judicious in who they searched — their success rate for Latinx drivers remained constant.
Statewide, the report said searches found contraband 50% of the time for Latinx drivers and pedestrians and 44% for Black people. White people were found to have contraband in 53.6% of searches.
Clackamas' disparities will trigger a closer examination of the agency's policies and practices, as mandated by new state guidelines. The sheriff's office did not respond to questions about how it plans to address the findings in the report.
While the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office was the only police force singled out in the state report for further review, a number of agencies had disparities in at least one category.
"While most agencies are not referred to (the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training) in this analysis, that does not necessarily mean that the results for all those agencies should be ignored or are not close to the threshold of identification," the report from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission stated.
Disparities in policing were evident in many parts of Oregon, according to the report.
The Eugene and Hillsboro police departments, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and Oregon State Police also showed discrepancies in how they cited Black and Latinx people. When arrests and searches were taken individually, 2.9% of the 6,227 Black people stopped by the Portland Police Bureau were searched and 6.1% were arrested. For white people in similar circumstances, PPB searched 1.9% and arrested 4.3%.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office cited, searched or arrested 32% of the Latinx people it stopped compared to only 26.6% of white people.
This story was compiled with information provided by Pamplin Media Group news partner Oregon Public Broadcasting.
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