Study: Latinos disproportionately cited by Hillsboro police

Washington County

State official says traffic stop data didn't indicate major problems, but one disparity was noteworthy

A Hillsboro Police Department vehicle. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — There was little evidence of ethnic or racial disparities for people stopped by the Hillsboro Police Department during a one-year period, according to the latest report by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.

But for Latinos in Hillsboro, there was a disparity in what happened after they were stopped that remains an area of concern for state officials for the second straight year.

Hillsboro Police Department officers gave Latinos citations at a notably higher rate than what an analysis predicted the rate should be.

“This is an area where we did find some differences for (the) Hillsboro Police Department in both our initial report and our most recent report,” said Ken Sanchagrin, the commission’s director, during a March 16 work session with the Hillsboro City Council.

The Criminal Justice Commission analyzed 10,517 stops — about 96% of them traffic stops, with pedestrian stops accounting for the rest — made by the Hillsboro Police Department between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020.

The analysis was part of the Statistical Transparency of Policing (STOP) Program, which began after Oregon legislators passed House Bill 2355 in 2017. Its goal is to use data about discretionary police stops to identify disparities based on race or ethnicity. The results of the analysis were published in the program’s second annual report last December.

According to the report, Hillsboro officers cited 35.5% of people they classified as “Hispanic” after a traffic stop. The report’s “predicted rate” for that group — in other words, the percentage that police would be expected to cite based on the available data — was 26%.

The disparity was the largest of any police department in Oregon with 100 or more officers. That category includes multiple Portland-area police departments, including the Beaverton Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Sanchagrin told Hillsboro city councilors the recent analysis showed Latinos were even likelier to be cited compared to the previous year.

Highlighted as significant in the program’s first-ever report in 2019, Hillsboro officers cited 27.6% of Hispanic people that year. The predicted rate that year was 20.2%.

Predicted rates are calculated after controlling for all variables other than race or ethnicity, including age, gender, time of day and reason for the stop.

The report didn’t find that officers were significantly likelier to search or arrest Latinos or other people of color during a stop.

The analysis also considered stops based on whether it was day or night. The “veil of darkness” model assumes that officers are better able to identify someone’s race during the day than at night.

The report shows that Latinos were 10% more likely to be stopped during the day when their race was visible than at night. But the difference wasn’t large enough to be considered clearly significant, Sanchagrin said.

“We cannot say with a degree of confidence enough as statisticians to make a call, basically, that there is any disparate treatment that is occurring,” he said.

An analysis of the Hillsboro Police Department’s success rate of searches across groups didn’t show evidence that officers treated people differently based on their race or ethnicity, according to the report.

Overall, Sanchagrin said the analysis didn’t show any major problems at the Hillsboro Police Department.

“At the state level, using the thresholds we’ve set, which are consistent with the gold research standards, that we have at least not flagged Hillsboro for follow-up,” Sanchagrin said. “We believe that most of the data we see for your police department is positive.”

City Councilor Olivia Alcaire said that despite the overall picture of the report, “the disparities exist.”

Sanchagrin and Alcaire both noted that the report focuses exclusively on data rather than people’s experiences with police, and Alcaire said she has heard from community members who feel discriminated against by police in Hillsboro.

“Your statistics raise a lot of qualitative questions,” said Alcaire, who is Latina. “This is like letting me know that I might not want to drive around sometimes at night and on certain roads in Hillsboro because I might get pulled over.”

Jim Coleman, chief of the Hillsboro Police Department, who was present for the work session on the report, said he recognizes the importance of the data and its ability to help the department improve.

“We don’t take this as a, ‘Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing. We’re going to be fine,'” Coleman said. “We care about every decimal point as it changes through the years. And we’re trying to be very cognizant of the fact that this is an ongoing thing that we are always going to have to put work into. We are not resting on a good report card, so to speak.”

The Hillsboro City Council recently approved funding to add a data analyst for the police department to understand the data in greater detail, Coleman said.

The Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group’s papers are a KOIN 6 News media partner

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