Oregon State Police troopers disproportionately issued citations to motorists of color compared with white drivers over a one-year period, creating a statistically significant racial disparity, state researchers say.
State troopers disproportionally stopped and cited drivers of Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Latino, Middle Eastern and Native American descent, according to an Oregon Criminal Justice Commission analysis.
Additionally, Native American drivers were more likely than whites to be arrested when troopers stopped them, and drivers of Middle Eastern heritage were more likely than whites to be subject to searches that turned up empty.
The unbalanced patterns was generated using models that account for other factors such as time of day or the reason for the traffic stop.
Of the 143 law enforcement agencies included in the study, state police were the only one whose data registered disproportionate traffic stops on two of the three statistical models used by the commission. Researchers now recommend further data analysis and that state troopers seek training from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.
Oregon State Police spokesperson Capt. Stephanie Bigman said the agency’s Mandatory Violation Enforcement Policy, which mandates arrest for DUII violations and citations for certain dangerous driving behaviors, will likely reduce the discrepancy when included in future analyses. She said the agency’s outcomes have improved since previous reports were issued in 2020 and 2019.
“How we interact with the public and individuals we come into contact is of the utmost importance to our department,” said Bigman. “We want to ensure we treat every person with respect, dignity and fairness.”
Regarding the search of Middle Eastern motorists, Bigman noted that only 35 such searches were conducted in the past two years, or 1% of all searches conducted. OSP has already contacted the commission and plans to continue their partnership, she said.
The Statistical Transparency of Policing, or STOP, report released Dec. 1 has some limitations: Lawmakers have expressly prohibited collecting data that could identify the involved motorists or officers.
“These analyses, therefore, can only identify systematic disparities across a law enforcement agency or at a larger level of aggregation,” state researchers wrote. “This report cannot and does not discount or speak to the personal experiences of individuals who have been subjected to biased treatment.”
The report collated data from 477,964 traffic stops initiated by law enforcement officers between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021. State troopers pulled over the largest share of drivers, some 130,000.
The report also examined pedestrian stops, which make up roughly 3% of all officer-initiated stops.
The results of one of three statistical models showed Black drivers were more likely than white drivers to be searched or arrested during Portland Police Bureau traffic stops. Researchers, however, only called for further scrutiny of data that showed disparities in two or more statistical models.
Portland police did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office touted the results of the study, which found the agency’s deputies treated whites and people of color equitably across many categories, including stops, searches and citations.
“The data reflects our ongoing commitment to equity and accountability for the work we do,” Sheriff Mike Reese said in a statement. “While we are pleased with the results, we know equity work is continuous. We will continue to challenge ourselves to identify improvements and eliminate disparities.”
— Zane Sparling; [email protected]; 503-319-7083; @pdxzane