Lake Oswego Police Department shares data collection methods
Curiosity and concern have been expressed throughout Lake Oswego regarding demographic data relating to traffic stops. And in concert with efforts to reform the police and increase transparency across the nation, the city has been having these conversations at a local level.
Lake Oswego established the goal of creating a framework for a community engagement process to examine policing in the aftermath of widespread condemnation of police killings of Black people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year.
As part of this examination of community policing, the city of Lake Oswego began in-depth discussions this month. During a council meeting at the beginning of May, the Lake Oswego Police Department focused on topics ranging from hiring practices to officer training. On Tuesday, the focus shifted to data.
During the May 18 City Council meeting, Oregon Criminal Justice Commission Executive Director Ken Sanchagrin and representatives from the Lake Oswego Police Department shared how the agencies collect different types of data focusing on areas like traffic stops, use of force and complaints.
Sanchagrin focused his presentation on the Statistical Transparency of Police Program, which was the result of House Bill 2355 passed by the Legislature in 2017. This bill required law enforcement agencies to report on traffic and pedestrian stops. Data collected in these STOP reports includes gender, race/ethnicity, reason for stop and age.
LOPD is in its second year of the program, so the data provided was from 2020. Sanchagrin said the statistics on their own cannot prove or disprove discrimination; rather they provide a benchmark analysis that helps determine whether there are indicators of discrimination or disparities in the data. However, Sanchagrin's presentation noted that academic research shows that benchmark-based analysis is often biased or invalid.
"We are not discounting the personal experiences that individuals have," Sanchagrin said.
Research challenges include explanations for gaps in the data — driving behavior differences, racial profiling, officer deployment patterns, differences in exposure to the police — the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and daily commuting patterns.
The U.S. Census "On the Map" data tool tracks how many workers in the city actually live in the city. Sanchagrin said when looking at Lake Oswego, around 90% of workers come from somewhere else, so he expects officers to encounter different demographics on the road than those reported in the census.
In the early days of the pandemic, Sanchagrin said traffic stops fell substantially because there were less people on the road. In Lake Oswego, traffic stops fell by 72% in April 2020 compared to two months prior. He added that the pandemic changed the share of drivers on the road each day, which could change the racial composition of drivers on the road. Frontline workers, Sanchagrin said, are more likely to be people of color, which was something to be "cognizant of."
According to STOP data from 2019-2020, Lake Oswego had 5,429 stops and almost 99% of them were traffic stops. More than half of those traffic stops were moving violations.
The data was broken up into race/ethnicity and three different types of analysis were applied to suss out indicators of racial discrimination.
"We've not found indicators of racial disparate treatment in Lake Oswego for our first year here," said Sanchagrin, adding that they set the standard in terms of concerns being statistically significant. What someone might find concerning — even if it's not statistically significant — is ultimately up to the law enforcement agency to have a conversation about.
Sanchagrin said when analyzing data to see if there are racial disparities, there are a list of variables to consider like age, time of day and gender. For example, if there is a 40-year-old white man stopped by LOPD for speeding at 10 mph over the limit during the day on Tuesday, they would then find a Black man who was stopped for those same things and compare the outcome of each incident.
Another analysis looks at "hit" rates — if a police officer conducts a search and finds contraband. Sanchagrin said Lake Oswego doesn't conduct many searches, so it was difficult to run an analysis. In 2019-2020, there were 20 searches, seven of which resulted in a hit. If a hit rate is much lower in one group than another, that is concerning according to Sanchagrin. Of the successful hits, four were among those who identify as Black (two) and Latinx (two).
Council President Daniel Nguyen asked if they report the type or condition of the car someone is driving when stopped, and if that impacts an officer's decision to pull someone over.
"The data points we collect are the ones that are statutorily required to be collected," said Sanchagrin, adding that they don't currently have that data but an officer could report that as a reason for stopping someone.
Councilor John Wendland questioned whether a ZIP code is included in the data when a traffic stop is made, because many people who work in Lake Oswego live outside of the city.
LOPD Cpt. Clayton Simon said adding ZIP codes isn't mandatory, but LOPD recently opted to include that information.
Mayor Joe Buck asked if people report police bias incidents to the CJC. Sanchagrin said yes, but more often law enforcement agencies are required to report to the CJC regarding perceived or alleged discrimination. He said many people have opted to report to the new bias crime and bias incident hotline.
Simon and LOPD Chief Dale Jorgensen shared the data the department collected in 2020, which included number of incidents, traffic citations, use of force and complaints.
In 2020, there were more than 21,000 incidents reported which consisted of calls for service and self-initiated activity like traffic and pedestrian stops. There were 17,216 calls for service which resulted in just over 3,600 case numbers for incidents including crimes, crashes and arrests.
In Lake Oswego, Jorgensen said, top crimes include stolen vehicles, sex crimes, theft, fraud, vandalism and harassment.
The top five traffic citations out of the 3,972 included speeding (1,235), cell phone use (688), failure to obey traffic control devices (395), driving uninsured (185) and no operator's license (179).
The top three also caused the most crashes.
When LOPD began using the STOP Program, "We looked for this correlation — what are we citing people for and how does that correlate to our traffic crashes and also neighborhood complaints?" Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen added that the department has received a lot of questions around race, so they pulled the data for citations.
For speeding, 1,016 of the 1,235 speeding citations were given to white people, 95 to Hispanic/Latinx, 44 to Asian, 40 to Black or African American, 36 to unknown and four to American Indian or Alaskan Native. For cell phone usage it was 610, 33, 18, 18 and 9, respectively.
"We go through every month and look at these," said Jorgensen, adding that he makes sure they're keeping an eye out for disparities that might pop up.
He'd also like to share this data on a regular basis on LOPD's website.
"That's one of the things we're leaning toward doing," he said.
The two basic complaint types are formal and informal, and they can be both internal and external. Out of the incidents last year, there were eight internal formal complaints — an officer saying they had an issue with another officer or employee — and 11 formal citizen complaints — interactions in the community that needed to be addressed and investigated.
"Amongst all of the very significant events that we had both nationally and globally, here in Lake Oswego we were working diligently to try to maintain that high level of customer service, address the issues we needed to address to continue to work to be better," said Simon, adding that complaints are reviewed to examine what's going well along with shortcomings, gaps and where there might be a training issue resulting in a complaint.
LOPD is also required to document any use of force greater than cooperative handcuffing. Out of the more than 21,000 incidents reported last year, 60 involved use of force.
More than half of the use of force reports involved physical control.
"(This was) if we had to go hands on and control an arm or bring their hands behind their back," Simon said. A firearm was displayed 25% of the time, and a Taser was displayed 6% of the time.
Councilor Aaron Rapf questioned the use of firearms and Jorgensen said it had been 20 years since someone at LOPD used a firearm.
Councilor Massene Mboup asked if LOPD had demographics on use of force.
Simon said they could pull that information and get it to the council at a later date.
"Obviously use of force is a big issue in policing and always has been, and it's one of the things we take very serious," Jorgensen said. "We did not receive any complaints in 2020 for use of force. There was zero."
Buck said looking at the data shows good patterns that are reflective of the culture created at LOPD.
"We are blessed to live in one of the safest communities nationwide," Buck said.
However, he added, it's unacceptable to have even one person who experienced a negative encounter with the police because each person matters.
For more information on the presentations, visit the city's website.
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.