Oregon Legislature to Hold Hearing on Bills to End Profiling
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Community leaders from across the state are coming together to call for strong legislation that would define profiling in Oregon, collect better data and provide a path for reporting profiling complaints.
The broad coalition supporting legislation to end profiling includes Family Forward Oregon, Oregon Action, United Church of Christ, the Rural Organizing Project, Basic Rights Oregon, CAUSA, Asian Pacific Network of Oregon (APANO), and the Center for Intercultural Organizing.
According to the coalition, called Fair Shot for All, the problems with profiling extend beyond the Portland city limits: Profiling occurs in every part of the state and impacts many different communities, but we still lack a coordinated state policy to address it. Those regularly targeted by police often feel like prisoners in their own communities. The problems of profiling are not limited to race or ethnicity – communities can and are profiled based on their religious affiliation, language, and housing status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
“In cities and towns across Oregon, members of the LGBTQ community, especially people of color and transgender individuals, are profiled by law enforcement,” said Jeana Frazzini, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon. “Discrimination and harassment toward specific communities continues to erode public trust in law enforcement, making our neighborhoods less safe.”
Low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and LGBT people are targeted the most. Nearly one in three LGBT people and people living with HIV under the age of 30 reports hostile treatment in their most recent encounters with police, according to a national survey by Lambda Legal, a public interest law center. African Americans are five times more likely to be pulled over in a vehicle, even though Caucasians are three times more likely to have contraband. Profiling leads to higher arrest and conviction rates among these communities.
“The impacts of profiling reach further than most people realize,” said Midge Purcell, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the Urban League of Portland. “People with prior convictions and arrests are regularly shut out of jobs, perpetuating a vicious cycle among communities who already lack economic opportunities and face long-standing inequalities that make it tough to get ahead.”
Among those more likely to face arrest, many are struggling to make ends meet and risk harsher penalties and extra fees when they can’t afford to pay their?fines. People can lose their driver’s license when they fall behind on court payments— putting their jobs on the line and their families at risk.
The legislative hearing will take at the Oregon State Capitol at 3 pm on Monday, March 30th.
Related Slideshow: What Portland Can Learn from Ferguson
Recent developments in Ferguson, Mo., where a white police officer was not indicted for shooting an unarmed black teen, have brought to light issues that provide a case in point for Portland, according to leaders in the city’s African American community.
President, Black Parent Initiative
Lesson #1: Address Systemic Racism
"Ferguson can happen anywhere. Right in Gresham, right in Portland, Oregon,” said Charles McGee, President and CEO of the Black Parent Initiative.
“We still have glaring inequities in Portland and need to mobilize as a community,” said McGee.
Lesson #1: Address Systemic Racism
Walker argues the overarching issue is that law enforcement and officials in Ferguson, as in Portland, are unaware of the biases already ingrained in society.
“When you’re blinded by ignorance and racism, that’s a huge problem. Some people spend their lives thinking nothing is wrong,” Walker said.
President, Know Your City
Lesson #3: Admit the Police System is Broken
Cameron Whitten, a former mayoral candidate and president of Know Your City, said the police system is broken, and has been for a long time. But the question of how to move forward remains.
“Be able to fully address what’s broken and how to fix that,” said Whitten. “Institutionally, Jim Crow has been around in policing, and generations have been trying to undo that,” he said.
Executive Director of the Oregon League of Minority Voters
Lesson #4: Protests Should be Strategic
King said discrimination becomes “normalized” in society’s systems and institutions, and that dismantling inequality demands examining those systems.
Protests, he said, are most effective when they call for people to direct their efforts toward changing those systems of injustice.