New Oregon Law Aims to Shed Light on Police Bias in Traffic Stops

You can't end discrimination in traffic stops if you don't know how bad the problem is, but only a handful of states collect comprehensive racial data on traffic enforcement. Now you can add one more to the list.

Photo: M.O. Stevens/Wikimedia Commons
Photo: M.O. Stevens/Wikimedia Commons

Racial profiling in traffic enforcement is pervasive throughout America. Despite high-profile investigations that long ago revealed how law enforcement agencies intentionally target black and Latino drivers, racial bias in traffic stops persists.

The racial disparities are also apparent in enforcement against people walking or biking. A recent Seattle Times investigation found a wildly disproportionate number of jaywalking tickets were issued to black people. And the Tampa Bay Times reported that 79 percent of bike tickets were issued to black residents, who comprise 25 percent of the city’s population. These practices deter people of color from bicycling, as research from Charles Brown at Rutgers University has shown.

You can’t end discrimination in traffic stops if you don’t know how bad the problem is, but only a handful of states collect comprehensive racial data on traffic enforcement. Now you can add one more to the list: A new bill signed by Oregon Governor Kate Brown aims to shed light on racial profiling in traffic stops.

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland reports that the legislation will establish a standardized reporting system for all traffic stops:

Once officers are trained and the data is recorded (it must begin by July 1st, 2018), agencies must issue annual reports to the Governor, the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, and the legislature. The law says data must include a person’s race, gender, and the legal justification for the stop. The data will be used, “to identify patterns or practices of profiling.”

Maus says the reporting requirements are especially important in light of Portland’s Vision Zero initiative:

In Portland, advocates are watching the Bureau of Transportation’s number one priority, Vision Zero, to see how it will impact enforcement practices. PBOT’s Vision Zero Action Plan did not recommend more enforcement specifically due to profiling fears. In December 2016 PBOT Director Leah Treat assured City Council that traffic enforcement would not lead to racial profiling. Instead, the agency will use automated enforcement measures like speed and red light cameras.

But in March of this year, at a meeting of the city’s Vision Zero Implementation Task Force, PBOT Commissioner Dan Saltzman made it seem like cameras wouldn’t be enough. “New cameras and speed limits are great,” he said, “but they all must be coupled with more aggressive enforcement.” Saltzman added that his office is working with the Portland Police Bureau and Multnomah County judges to, “work out some solutions in that regard.”

One issue is that PBOT wants to focus their safety work on neighborhoods with deadly roads that have been identified in their High Crash Network — and many of those run through places with a higher number of black and latino residents.

At that meeting back in March, Task Force member and Executive Director of the Black Parent Initiative Charles McGee, said, “We want to make sure when we’re patrolling that we’re not oversaturing certain communities.”

More recommended reading today: Plan Philly shares new research that found parking adds between $18,000 and $28,000 to the price of a house or condo in the city. And Systemic Failure reports that NIMBYs have killed off an upgrade to Acela rail service in Connecticut.

43 thoughts on New Oregon Law Aims to Shed Light on Police Bias in Traffic Stops

  1. Sorry, but this is nonsense. If a cop sees a car speeding, blowing through a red light, or driving erratically then that cop will pursue and stop the vehicle. Most of the time the cop will not know the race of the driver until the stop, so the idea that the cops only pursue (substitute your favorite race) is bogus.

    Now, what happens after the stop is another matter but, by then, the driver has already committed a crime. So, as someone who hates drivers who break the law, you’d expect and want consequences, right?

    If the result of an analysis of these stops show that blacks are stopped more than 10% of the total (the neutral number given that one American in ten is black) then that is less likely to be racial bias and more likely to be that blacks drive in a way that is more likely to garner police attention.

    Half the US prison population is black. Is that because of racism? Or because 50% of serious crimes are committed by blacks? You should at least ask the question rather than assume the answer is the one you prefer.

  2. Angie,

    There was a pretty good comment that challenged some of the key assumptions underlying your article. Ten minutes later it was gone.

    Do you think it is possible that there is a conflict of interest when the author of an article is also the moderator of its comments?

  3. It’s possible the post was self-deleted; dunno. Notice the number of comments at the top is different from below.

  4. Maybe. The main point he made was in reference to this quote in the article:

    “the Tampa Bay Times reported that 79 percent of bike tickets were issued to black residents, who comprise 25 percent of the city’s population.”

    The percentage of the population that is black is irrelevant. It’s the percentage of people who break the law that are black that matters for the purpose of the comparison. So if 80% of lawbreakers are black, and 79% of those cited are black, then there is no problem.

  5. I cannot give credence to your conspiracy theories, but do you have any evidence that the argument made is not valid?

  6. I cannot give credence to, nor find any evidence for, your conspiracy theories.

    I’ll help! Here are three different times people replied to this account specifically referring to it by the name it used at the time: AlTate
    The last one you have to scroll up a bit to see the Baruch comment it refers to, since you switched to your mortacai account half way through that thread.

    As for the “Morgan” (known at the time as “bobfuss”) in the previous thread being you, you pretty much admitted it in the thread ending here:

    Obviously there’s ton more evidence that’s easy to find (RichLL/Top Hat, Ringo/TonyRio, and Timpson/Harris all have well documented histories as well, despite your sad attempts to hide them via renaming).

    By the way, I know you love using your own definitions for words, but a conspiracy involves a group. One person operating a bunch of different accounts isn’t a conspiracy, it’s just one person trolling.

  7. But do you have comments on the topic

    Sure, here’s a comment on the topic: it’s great to see Oregon taking positive steps toward addressing the problem of systemic racism in traffic policing.

    I hope to see a time when this kind of thing would be seen as obvious common sense. But sadly, it’s still the case that there are people so racist that they will:
    – Willfully ignore the well documented (e.g., many Justice Department investigation findings) problems of bias in policing.
    – Try to pretend that it’s really in doubt by posting bogus data as hypotheticals (and not even defend it when challenged, other than to admit it’s completely made up).
    – Post that hypothetical even though they routinely argue that cycling is almost completely dominated by white men (when trying to discredit the rise of bicycling as urban transport) and routinely argue that the vast majority of cyclists break the law most of the time (when trying to excuse illegal behavior by drivers), so can’t possibly believe that it’s plausible.
    – Create a fleet of sock-puppet accounts to post that same “argument” every time police bias comes up.
    All in a transparent and weak attempt to be an apologist for systemic racism.

  8. OK, so in other words, you have no evidence that it is “racism” that causes a high percentage of tickets to be issued to blacks? And you have no idea what the percentage of total infractions committed by blacks really are, and so cannot prove that it is “disproportionately high”. For all you know, it might be low.

    All we really know is that you think there is racism, and somehow bizarrely want there to be.

    And your “evidence” for your other allegation is simply to repeat allegations that others have made, also without evidence?

  9. Hey Bobfuss/RichLL! Long time no realize it was you again. I marvel at the energy you put not only into creating these multiple accounts but how you are able to actually develop a voice and conscience for each. ‘Baruch’ is really your best work yet: poised, intellectual, nuanced, inquisitive, vulnerable…..

    RichLL really was more fun for the rest of us though with his combative and obtuse personality. Will he make a return?

  10. Stalking victim Baruch? Sorry, I take it back, I don’t like the new you at all.

    By the way, being blocked by most users on here to the point of no one responding to your profile anymore is not ‘stalking’ it’s ‘ignoring’. Which, for you, is untenable.

  11. Thank you for the compliment. I feel sure that Rich is envious and flattered by the comparison, wherever he is, whoever he is.

    All this effort to distract from the on-topic points I made seem to indicate that those points were too uncomfortably powerful for some people to handle or accept.

  12. He can’t be putting that much energy into developing a voice for them, given that sounding just like RichLL is what makes them so easy to identify.

    I wouldn’t expect to see RichLL (currently renamed “Top Hat”) for a while, since he still has other accounts to rotate through. “Al Mundy” seems to be one of his current favorites for Streetsblog, for instance.

  13. He is clearly a racist: he once posted (as RichLL)

    Sometimes you can just tell. The other
    day I’m on the F and a black dude gets on the off door, looking
    furtive, and sits in the back.

  14. It is hard to imagine the amount of time he must spend changing identities and writing his constant stream of comments. He once claimed that he had the time at work to comment, but unless he is a watchman who only sits at a desk and does nothing other than watch (and post), I can’t believe that he is telling the truth. Rather, I imagine him in a dark basement somewhere.

    He also claimed many times that he has a wife and children and therefore doesn’t post in the evening when he is at home; yet he has commented countless times in the evening and at night, so I think that he has invented a family to cover the fact that he is the lonely, disturbed person I see him as. That, or he is a poor and distant father.

    Back when I was still responding to his various identities, I often used his current screen name in the body of the post. Now it is very funny to look back through those posts and see that every identity I was responding to has been changed. He cannot cover his trail.

    He is a one-man (multi-identity) plague.

  15. Stop the presses! I was looking though some of my earlier posts and saw that some that I addressed to RichLL, wherein I called him by name, are now recorded as being to Stuart, showing that Stuart is another of RichLL’s sockpuppets. HolyCow! That means that all of the lengthy discussions between one of RichLL’s identities and Stuart are really just RichLL refuting himself.

    This shows – in addition – that Stuart’s claim that RichLL is now posting as Top Hat is pure misdirection. I checked: there is NO Top Hat profile on Disqus.

    How does he have so much free time? What can he really get out of this?

    Here is a screenshot

  16. Corvus,

    Your enthusiasm for stalking another contributor might be concerning were it not for the fact that it comes across more as self-absorbed than menacing.

    But when 50% of your comments are not on transportation topics but rather on another individual., it may not be good for your long term health, sanity and soul. Some levity and whimsy, perhaps?

    As for Rich, he always posts on the topic, is clearly educated, articulate and intelligent, and rarely engages in personal attacks. Isn’t he exactly the kind of contributor we should be encouraging?

    Why do you fear his input so much?

  17. Ah, I see. So if an African American gentleman boards a bus, appears nervous and sits in the back, then it is racist to observe that?

    The things I learn here.

  18. How sweet, Richie; thank you caring so much for my soul, my health, my sanity, my blood pressure. I really appreciate it. And in the spirit of good-fellowship, let me reciprocate: first, I want to caution you not to break your arm patting yourself on the back, Richie, for always posting on the topic (except for the post I am replying to;), being clearly educated, articulate, and (Oxford comma) intelligent. Oh, and I almost forgot to include your ‘wisdom’.

    Next, I want to say that I am concerned about your sanity; perhaps you are unable to see, or unwilling to admit, how truly insane, how schizophrenic, it appears to so many of us for you to create a sockpuppet that insults degrades, and analyzes your other sockpuppets. I hope you will get the help you so clearly need.

    Maybe you could consider taking a long break from the worldwide web; shut off your computer, go out and walk – or better, take a nice bike ride among the sensible drivers you advocate for. Spend time on you ‘job’ – you must know that all the research shows that there is no value to multitasking, that you just end up doing two things badly. Spend some quality time with your wife and kids (if they really exist) rather than being the distant dad you show yourself to be by spending so much time with your incessant posting.

    Finally, let me say that if my wisdom really irks you, then why not merely block my content? I feel it might be better for your blood pressure. I have no intentions of blocking you again as I get so many laughs from your posts – even disliking you as I do, and truly enjoy exposing your many sockpuppet identities.

  19. So now it’s ‘African-American gentleman’? Well, pip pip let’s have a cuppa tea, old bean. You switched from ‘black dude’ now that I have called you out. You are SO weird and funny.

    For the benefit of others who might not see why your comment was racist, I’d like to say: It is racist to gratuitously mention someone’s race. If you were describing a purse-snatcher to the police, for instance, you might say: he was a white guy in a blue windbreaker, or a black guy in a tuxedo, an Asian guy in a Speedo – whatever – as there is good reason to say what race he was. But there was no reason for RichLL to include the fact that the suspicious ‘dude’ was African-American, unless it was that he assumed that the ‘dude’s’ skin-color furthered his suspiciousness; and that is racist.

  20. No, multi-tasking is quite easy. I’m doing two other things while I debunk you.

    But I’m flattered that you think my arguments are so powerful that ithey warrant your constant vigilance.

  21. So all these people whining about white supremacists are being racist?

    It’s called descriptive writing. I might also mentions someone’s height, weight, clothing and other attributes. I am painting a pen picture. Surely nobody can be so PC as to object to that?

    And “black” is racist but “African-American” isn’t? You really are a font of knowledge Is this all written down somewhere so I can avoid such horrific errors n the future.

    But I feel no need to block anyone. Unlike you and some others, I can read a different opinion without becoming enraged. It’s all about tolerance, respect and diversity. I may disagree with you but that doesn’t mean I dislike you. Indeed, your attention is rather flattering.

  22. I call you a troll, I say you are unhinged, I tell you that I dislike you, I accuse you of outright lying: and you’re FLATTERED? Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

    For someone who says ‘he always posts on the topic’ I notice that you had no reply pertinent to my post.

    But thank you for demonstrating the worthlessness of multitasking: 1.) you replied to my other post under this post, a small mistake, I admit, but a mistake nonetheless; 2.) you wrote ‘that ithey warrant’, ithey? you might have noticed your Freudian slip if you had been paying attention to one of the 3 things you were doing while you tried and failed to ‘debunk’ me; ithey is actually good in your case as you post under so many names.

    Here are a couple links to SCIENTIFIC studies on the uselessness and actually danger of multitasking. If you do bother to read them, try to put down the other 18 things you are simultaneously doing so you can understand the words you are reading.

  23. Put down the other things so are doing and READ my post. You would not be making such foolish statements if you read and understood what I wrote.

  24. If I skip over your posts sometimes it is because they ramble and can be confusing. For instance, your 1, 2 and 3 there make no sense to me. I think the problem is that you get angry and then your writing becomes an incoherent blur.

    I mentioned multi-tasking because you claim this takes a lot of my time. It really doesn’t. I think quick, write quick and can multi-task. Right now I’m making coffee, watching sport and refuting you, all at the same time. That said, I often go days without posting – it’s not my life the way it is yours.

    The difference between us is that you take all this too seriously, and that means you get angry when you encounter a different opinion. Ultimately this is just entertainment and amusement. None of it matters, but when you try and suppress my content, it reveals that you think my ideas are a threat, and that is a moral victory for me and an encouragement to continue.

    By appearing so desperate to suppress me, you confer power and validity upon me.

  25. Stuart is another of RichLL’s sockpuppets.

    Only in that he renamed his bobfuss account again, this time to “Stuart”, presumably in some kind of bizarre attempt at retaliation at me for outing more of his alts.

    Follow the profile links for those old posts and for one of my posts; it’s not the same.

    Stuart’s claim that RichLL is now posting as Top Hat is pure misdirection.

    Because he renamed it again. If you look back at older posts, it’s easy to find the new name:

    Trolls gonna troll. But I’m sure he’ll tell us that this is not trolling and is really all a completely innocent use of “anti-stalking” functionality, as always.

  26. Ok, I see. Sorry if I impugned your character; I will add this information to my earlier comment. I am shocked and appalled that Disqus allows non-unique names. If I knew how to get in touch with them, I would complain about this, but I was, on an earlier occasion, unable to discover any contact information. Maybe consider adding a letter or a number to your id so we can tell your posts from the Great Troll’s: we can add ‘creepy’ to his list of defects.

  27. Maybe consider adding a letter or a number to your id so we can tell your posts from the Great Troll’s

    Why bother? He could just rename the account again to match.

    At some point he’ll presumably realize that this completely undermines his ‘having multiple accounts and renaming them regularly is all perfectly innocent and I’m the real victim here’ narrative. Or he’ll just succumb to his apparent need to keep using the same accounts, but renaming them. (Did you know, for instance, that he’s still using the original RoyTT account, after having changed its name several times?)

    One way or another, I doubt this will last.

  28. I am unaware of a RoyTT. Is that the account he changed to RichLL, which is the name I first noticed when I started reading Disqus? You’re probably right that he will change the name of his Stuart account, especially now that he has been called on it. Keep up your good detective work; it is usually pretty easy to spot his style, but when he first appeared as Todd, he changed his voice and I fell for it and responded to some of his comments, but he was not able to maintain the new voice, and was found out. That’s when he changed into Timpson. Cheers.

  29. I searched RoyTT on Disqus and found nothing: I guess he has changed that name too. Do you know what it is now?

  30. Thanks for the link. I did look through it and yes, he was super easy to spot. It seems that Proper-Boy used to be Sam as that’s the name people used in the actual posts – many referred to him as Spam, which I loved. I guess he was Oboed at some point as at least one commenter referenced him by that name. I don’t recall ever seeing Proper-Boy on Streetsblog, so that id was new to me. I did check the name, and it is still current.

    Criminy! How many current accounts does this strange person have? No, really, do you know?

  31. I found out that RoyTT is now Parque_Hundido, still a current id. More than 17,000 posts! Ay ay ay. I think I have seen that id on some Streetsblog posts, or at least in articles listed on Streetsblog.

    This is so fascinating – in a skin-crawly way.

  32. Interesting. Thanks for the link. His stealing my name and arguing with himself so rabidly and insanely says a lot. One of his personalities, likely with several name changes has more than 17,000 comments! How does he have the time?

  33. arguing with himself so rabidly

    Huh? No, you’re not getting it.

    You understand that you aren’t secretly RichLL just because he gave one of his accounts (the actual RichLL account) your name, I assume.

    Hopefully you understand that the same applies to me and the account (previously bobfuss) that he gave my name.

    That brings us to:
    RichLL (the account that was RoyTT):
    Someone who called out RichLL as a troll:

    See the pattern?

    I’m not sure why you are so attached to the idea that he has dissociative identity disorder. He’s just a troll with a bunch of accounts.

  34. No, I guess I wasn’t getting it. I think that was because the real Parque_Hundido (with only about 4,000 comments) was making his own comments while the troll Parque_Hundido (with more than 12,000 comments) made his, and I just assumed they were both the same person, which clearly they’re not. I did figure out that RichLL – as Corvax Corax – has made more than 3,300 under that fake name, whereas I, the original CC, have only made 801. I know that he originally posted as RichLL in the Points Guy’s comment section because a commenter named Alex keeps calling him that. I guess he started the RichLL account from scratch in May of 2015, whereas his Parque_Hundido account dates from back in 2010, so I think this is the old RoyTT.

    Am I finally getting it?

  35. No, you have it exactly backwards, despite the fact that I labelled which was which in the last post. I give up.

  36. No. I called him out for his multi-account trolling, let him know that I knew who he was and he stopped.

    I made my account private to prevent him stalking me.

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