Lake Oswego police analysis shows few use-of-force incidents in 2021
The Lake Oswego Police Department rarely uses force that causes harm to individuals, and criminals are stealing motor vehicles at an increasingly high rate, according to data presented by the department to the Lake Oswego City Council Tuesday, April 5.
The department presented data on use of force, traffic stops and crime statistics to the council as part of a process that came out of the community conversation on policing the city had in 2021.
According to the report, there were 39 instances that were logged as use-of-force incidents and 255 officers were involved in these cases. Of those incidents, the police found that two K-9 (police dog) bites were inflicted, one person was injured after police used a Taser on them (they fought with an officer and then tried to flee) and others dealt with minor scrapes. In total, five people and three officers were injured in 2021. Lake Oswego Police Chief Dale Jorgensen added that an officer hadn't shot a subject in town in 22 years.
"We would like to think it would never happen here, and it's been 22 years, but it could very well," Jorgensen said. "Our officers train very vigilantly to take every action they can to keep everyone safe."
Police asserting physical control accounted for 37% of use-of-force incidents while displaying a firearm accounted for 35%. Displaying a K-9, Taser and solid foam projectiles shot from a launcher also count as use-of-force incidents and were the other most common instances. Capt. Clayton Simon said the department's K-9s can be a major deterrent to violence, as well as its new behavioral health officer who can assist the police in responding to incidents involving people in distress.
"I think for most municipalities our size or maybe a little bit bigger it is (common)," Simon said about the low numbers of major use-of-force incidents. "I give a lot of credit to the tools, tactics and training we have: having someone like Amber (Hambrick, the behavioral health specialist) who can respond and maybe talk someone down who would maybe normally engage in violent behavior, having a K-9 there to deter someone from maybe wanting to fight, being thoughtful in how we approach situations where we show up with enough options that we can address the situations hopefully peacefully, or at least without injury to the subjects or the officers."
The police representatives also presented STOP data, which assesses whether or not local police departments appear to be consistently showing bias when pulling people over.
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission did not find a statistically significant disparity in this regard. The numbers for Lake Oswego show that 80.5% of those being pulled over were white, 8% were Latino, 4.4% were Asian and 4.1% were Black. The CJC report shows that Latinos received "outcomes" — meaning citations, searches or arrests — at a 3.9% higher rate than what the commission's model would have predicted and Black people at a 0.7% lower rate.
"If the CJC in their analysis sees any indicators that raise the eyebrow, even if they don't see that it clearly points to bias-based policing practices, they notify the agency and say 'Hey we want to talk to you about this. Walk us through what's going on,'" Simon said.
Overall, the city issued tickets on 53% of traffic stops, down from 63% in 2020. Simon said the department's goal is to have the ratio be about 50/50. Failure to obey a traffic control device and driving while uninsured were the most common of the 3,706 violations cited.
The department also received a total of nine formal complaints in 2021, six coming from citizens and three internally. There were no use-of-force complaints and there was one bias complaint, which the department found to be unsubstantiated. The other citizen complaints also were unsubstantiated, according to the department.
As far as crime statistics, there were just over 23,000 incidents — meaning calls for service or officer-initiated activity, a number that was nearly 10% higher than 2020.
Instances of some of the most serious crimes like homicide, rape and robbery were slightly down from 2020 while less egregious crimes like assault, forgery, fraud and theft were up nearly 12%. Cases of stolen vehicles or parts were up 61% from 2020 and robberies climbed from four to eight. Overall, thefts were down 7.9%. By comparison, property crimes in neighboring West Linn have increased substantially in recent years including an uptick from 569 to 633 from 2020 to 2021.
Motor vehicle thefts also rose continuously in Lake Oswego between 2016 and 2020, according to FBI data. Violent crimes remained relatively static between 2010 and 2020, the data also shows.
Simon identified people going out more in 2021 after staying inside in 2020 due to the pandemic as a potential cause for some of the increases. He also said that concerning crime trends happening regionally are taking place in Lake Oswego, and officers have noticed that criminals are becoming more brazen.
Jorgensen felt that the four additional cops the City Council greenlighted who are in training now would help to deter crimes. He added that crime is occuring most frequently in the Boones Ferry Road corridor.
"Having more cops in a patrol car driving the area actually drives crime down," he said. "What could happen is we could split that district in two and have two officers out there. That's some of the things proactively we can do. That hinges on us getting people trained and out there."
Lake Oswego city councilors praised the department for its performance and thanked them for keeping the city safe.
"The community has a community policing feeling and has a connection with our police department," Council President John Wendland said. "That's because of what you guys have been doing. It's an open attitude. It's a reflective attitude of giving great customer service while keeping our community safe."
In other news, the council agreed to express support for a petition a West Linn resident sent to the Oregon State Marine Board asking it to lower the standard for the maximum noise of boats on waterways from 84 to 75 decibels.
Some councilors felt that the letter of support was a way to continue to advocate for tighter regulations on the river to improve safety for users. Councilor Aaron Rapf was the lone member to disagree with the stance, saying that it would be challenging and burdensome to enforce.
Also during the meeting, the City Council approved the annexation of 2.9 acres of land on Hazel Road adjacent to Lake Oswego High School for the Lake Oswego School District to use for future development.
Anthony Vandenberg, the district's executive director of project management, said the site may be used for outdoor learning spaces, gardens, greenhouses and a public gathering space.
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