PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new report released Tuesday by the City of Portland auditors found that the Portland Police Bureau needs to do more to protect information regarding an individual’s possible gang affiliation.
The report provided updates on actions the bureau has taken to address the 2018 audit recommendations, which resulted in PPB’s Gang Enforcement Team being disbanded and the creation of new units, including the Enhanced Community Safety Team.
The Gang Enforcement Team, which auditors found to disproportionately conduct patrol stops on Black people, was restructured into the Gun Violence Reduction Team in 2019 to focus on all gun violence. That team was ultimately dissolved, and then in 2021, ECST was formed.
Even though PPB ceased its list of known gang members in 2018, auditors allege the bureau still retains and uses gang information.
“… The Bureau continues to use information about people’s gang relationships in less formal ways than keeping lists,” according to auditors.
The bureau was also urged to create policies for collecting and disseminating gang-related information, which Wheeler said would be a “major undertaking.”
Further, the report found PPB has failed to record patrol stops that are described as “mere conversations,” which auditors describe as interactions between officers and community members that don’t result in detainment. Wheeler, however, called the recommendation “unclear.”
“In addition to the legality of collecting such data, we remain concerned with the feasibility of the recommendation as it applies to the FIT,” Wheeler said. “‘Mere conversations’ encompass every voluntary contact a member of the public has with an officer, regardless of who initiates that contact. This would include small talk while getting coffee or having lunch, or even a person simply asking an officer for directions. Tracking every passing conversation and entering that information into a law enforcement database is a major undertaking.”
Wheeler added that some of the recommendations are no longer relevant since the scope of PPB’s current units is different than the disbanded Gang Enforcement Team.