PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Edward Jones spent 2 decades serving as a trial court judge in Multnomah County before retiring in 2017. He is fully in favor of the changes announced by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and PPB Chief Chuck Lovell.
“This is the most optimistic moment I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been dealing with criminal justice,” Jones told KOIN 6 News.
In a press conference Tuesday, Wheeler and Lovell said PPB is also changing its policy on consent searches. The mayor said this is part of the evolving methods and mission of the police bureau.
Oregon House Bill 2002, which stalled in the legislature last month, would have made similar changes to police forces statewide. But Wheeler said they’re not waiting for another legislative session to make these changes.
“Despite the resistance that comes naturally as we seek to implement change we’re determined to do whatever it takes to meet the demands of the community,” Wheeler said.
The new policy means police will no longer pull drivers over for infractions like an expired tag or a broken tail light.
“As many of you know we have limited resources,” Lovell said. “We’re trying to direct those resources most appropriately.”
Wheeler said it was data that spurred the decision.
“Police bureau data over the last 5 years shows that Black drivers are searched at nearly double the rate of other drivers,” he said.
Retired Judge Jones, who was a public defender for many years, spent 18 years as a trial court judge in Multnomah County and was the chief criminal judge for the last 2 years he was there, agreed.
“I have a stack of studies in my office that goes back 40 years, right? There’s lots of studies nobody’s ever done anything” to merit being pulled over and searched.
“We need to rethink how the police go about what they do every day. You know, it is when you get stopped by the police, whether you did something or not, that’s a tax you pay, it’s an inconvenience that you gladly put up with because you understand it improves the community justice for all,” Jones said. “So even ,when the guy goes by with the siren, you pull over, right? Because you understand it’s a little bit of an inconvenience for you, but it’s important for the safety of everybody.”
The new consent search policy states officers must clearly tell the person of their legal right to refuse consent, will hand out cards that inform people of their consent to search rights, and the officer must make an audio recording when they ask for consent to search.
“We don’t have body cameras, as you know, so we would have essentially, like, a phone app where we could do an audio recording,” Lovell said.
Jones said this is all a very complicated issue.
“We’ve got to think seriously about why we arrest people and why it is that certain people get arrested a lot more than others,” he said. “For the first time in the last few years, I actually see enough action in the community to think that things might change. This is the most optimistic moment I’ve seen in all the years. I’ve been dealing with criminal justice.”