Multnomah County racial disparities grow in arrests

Civic Affairs

Burns Institute released the study Monday

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Portland-area African-Americans continue to be arrested and jailed in Multnomah County at a far higher rate than white people, and the disparity has grown since 2014, according to a new report released Monday, Nov. 25.

The 43-page report, prepared by The Burns Institute of Oakland, follows up on a 2015 report funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation intended to help cities and counties reduce their reliance on jail and prison. The report found that in general, the rate of arrest and conviction in the county has lessened since the last report. And an analysis of the numbers released by Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill stressed that once cases reach his office, many of the disparities disappear.

“There are some things when you look at this data that are good, because raw numbers have gone down since 2014, Right?” said Michael Finley, the institute’s chief of strategy and implementation. “But the nuance is that the disparities still continue. And I think that actually makes Multnomah similar to a lot of the other jurisdictions we’re working with.”

A new report released November 25, 2019 tracked racial disparities in Multnomah County as people arrested moved through the system. It found that overrepresentation of black people has worsened since 2015. (The Burns Institute via Portland Tribune)

Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw said her agency’s work on disparities will continue. “It is important for us to continue to dig deeper into the context of the data and identify opportunities to improve the service we provide,” Outlaw said. “Reports such as these help us to realize that over-representation of certain races continues to exist in the criminal justice system and in our stops. The real question is why.”

Burns Institute – Racial, Ethnic Disparities in Multnomah County
City of Portland – Stops Data Collection 2018 report
City of Portland – Stops Data Collection annual reports

The 2015 disparities report in Multnomah County was cited in pursuing a variety of initiatives locally.

A series of articles by a collaboration including the Portland Tribune, Pamplin Media Group and Investigate West, called Unequal Justice, delved deeper in 2017.

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