City auditor: Portland’s gang enforcement officers, investigator - KPTV - FOX 12

City auditor: Portland’s gang enforcement officers, investigators need to be effective

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Two new reports released by the Portland City Auditor have shined a light on gang enforcement patrol officers and investigators in the city, who the auditor said need to step up in their documentation and investigation.
 
Both reports released Wednesday focus on data mainly from 2016.
 
In its audit of the Portland Police Bureau’s gang enforcement patrol officers, the office found the bureau falls short of showing how traffic stops conducted by patrol officers are effective in identifying gang members and preventing gang violence.
 
The city auditor wrote a lack in fully reporting of traffic stop effectiveness did not explain why officers pulled over primarily black drivers in Portland. While officers reported race in their traffic stops, the city auditor wrote they did not express why the stops were made.
 
“The Police Bureau’s Gang Enforcement Team carried out traffic stops that disproportionately affected African American Portlanders. Community members expressed concerns that the stops were too broad and were not limited to criminal gang suspects,” the audit said.
 
The city auditor learned the bureau didn’t require “officers to collect certain information and also did not analyze available data,” including information on how many stops resulted in gun seizures or arrests.
 
Overall, the city auditor concluded officers who conducted traffic stops did not record how many stops led to contacts with people who were involved in gangs.
 
The recommendation from this audit was that PPB needs to “document and analyze the reasons for stops and the results, and report this information to the public to improve community trust.”

Gang Enforcement Patrol Research from other jurisdictions has shown that this kind of targeted patrol can be effective in reducing crime, but the practice can negatively affect relationships between the community and police, according to the Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute at Portland State University. Some neighborhoods see a regular presence of the Gang Enforcement Team – its patrol activities were concentrated in North, Northeast, and East Portland. The team said these were areas where gang crimes happened. These are also Portland’s neighborhoods where more residents are African American.

While the city auditor said officers did not have formally documented goals for patrolling, police said that the patrols were effective and prevented shootings in three ways: confiscating illegal guns, arresting people who may be on the verge of violence and creating a visible police presence, which acts as a disincentive to people who may otherwise engage in violent activity. 

Additionally, the city auditor looked at the bureau’s gang enforcement investigators.
 
Last year, PPB discontinued its practice of gang designation due to community feedback – with public opinion findings showing concerns about Portlanders “being stereoytyped and treated differently by police were higher in the African American community and their trust in police was low.”
 
While there is still some documentation on gang affiliation of people in Portland by the bureau, referred to as the “most active list,” the city auditor wrote the bureau needs more policies in place on handling this kind of information.
 
Also, the city auditor found the investigative team did not have a goal for how many cases it is expected to solve, something the office said needs to change.
 
In response to the two audits, both Mayor Ted Wheeler and police chief Danielle Outlaw wrote they support the recommendations.

"During the past year and as a result of this audit, we have made changes to our policies and procedures. We have done this in an effort to further improve our efficiencies and effectiveness when investigating and preventing violent crime related to those who are more at risk of being gang affected," Outlaw wrote. 
 
Read the full reports:
PPB Gang Enforcement Patrol Audit
PPB Gang Crime Investigations Audit
 
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