Portland Police To Stop Documenting Gang Members
Portland, OR – The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) announced on Friday afternoon, September 8, that it will stop documenting people as gang members, and will purge its gang member database in October, right after Danielle Outlaw is appointed as the new Police Chief.
The move appears to be done in the name of political correctness. Many agencies throughout the nation have gang member databases, and they are an invaluable investigative tool for officers, including officer safety.
The gang database would alert officers when they were out with a known gang member, and that database is now going away.
The database was also used to send social workers to try to work with the gang members to get them out of gangs.
The PPB said that the practice is being discontinued after strong concerns were brought up by residents about the gang member label, which have “disproportionately affected minorities,” according to OregonLive.
In their announcement, the PPB said:
“The Gang Designation Policy …was developed to be an investigative tool to help police decrease escalating gun violence.
As times have changed, the Police Bureau in partnership with community members have realized being labeled a ‘gang member’ can have a negative impact on the person who may be making attempts to overcome the life challenges they face.
Today, new processes and technologies allow police to investigate crimes in a manner that our community supports and that will not have the unintended consequences of potentially harming those who may need services and help the most.
The policy will be rescinded on October 15th,
People from our community who engage in violent crime and those who do so on behalf of a criminal organization will continue to be a focus of enforcement efforts of the Police Bureau.”
OregonLive Reporter Carli Brosseau reviewed data and found that there was a total of 359 “criminal gang affiliates” listed in the database as of summer, 2016, and 81 percent were part of a racial or ethnic minority.
OregonLive also found in its review that gang member designations were not done as a result of a criminal conviction or an arrest.
They were done based on a person’s identification as a gang member, involvement in a gang member initiation, and/or a gang-related crime, or displayed two or more identifiers as a gang member.
Portland Police Captain Mike Krantz said, “Gang violence isn’t going to go away. There are still crimes attributed to known gang sets. There are still criminal gang members. That doesn’t go away because we don’t have a gang designation. We’re not pretending gang violence doesn’t exist. We’re just taking this one thing away.”
He said that the agency had been considering the move for the past two years. It comes after city auditors have closely scrutinized the Gang Enforcement Team and its work over the past year.
Police said that the Gang Enforcement Team would still remain intact, and will still respond immediately to investigate shootings or stabbings. Captain Krantz said police officers will still be alerted to a potential threat through a person’s previous criminal involvement.
Kirsten Snowden, Multnomah County chief deputy district attorney, said that the purging of the gang database should not affect “prosecutions resulting from gang violence.”
Police will actually be sending out letters to everyone in the gang member database to tell them that all documentation about their gang affiliation is being purged, according to the Portland Police Bureau website.
The group Black Male Achievement is one community group that has urged the PPB to do this, and Program Coordinator C.J. Robbins said that it took “courage” for them to take this step. Portland Mayor and Police Commissioner Ted Wheeler was also happy about the announcement, and said “It was the right thing to do.”
Do you think that a city should ever put political correctness and gang member’s feelings before the safety of officers? We’d like to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments.