PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Last week, Rep. Travis Nelson, the only Black man seated in the Oregon House, raised concerns of possible racial bias after he was pulled over by state police twice in three days.
Now, newly obtained body cam video is raising more questions about those stops as well as policies and training.
KOIN 6 News asked several questions to OSP about the incidents. Was race a factor in the nearly back-to-back stops? And did the trooper then give him preferential treatment simply because of his status as a lawmaker? OSP has not responded to the questions.
“Again? After getting stopped on Monday after the floor speech on Tyre Nichols on Tuesday, the first day of Black History Month? I really just couldn’t believe it,” Nelson said.
Nelson admitted going 11 miles over the speed limit on Jan. 30, but maintains he never swerved out of his lane as the trooper suggested.
Two days later, Nelson was stopped again, this time for holding his phone while trying to reconnect to an audio conference call. But unprompted, the trooper asked Nelson if he worked for the legislature, and then said, “I’ll let you on your way.”
“To my knowledge, there’s no law saying that legislators cannot get tickets,” Nelson said. “With both stops, I was hesitant to tell either of the officers that I was a lawmaker. I did not want my being a legislator or someone who makes laws to have any impact on the way that I was being treated by the officers.”
In a statement last week, OSP told KOIN 6 they spoke with Nelson about his concerns, stating in part: “We take any allegation of racial bias seriously and are committed to eradicating racism from our profession and we seek to understand how our enforcement efforts impact the communities we serve.”
OSP states Nelson only received warnings and was not issued citations for any of the alleged violations. But the representative says he believes his status as a lawmaker and the suit he was wearing both played a role in how he was treated, and said that he’s concerned about what that means for others who look like him.
“Although I did not get a ticket either time, that’s not the point. And what I was doing wasn’t the point. It’s really the fact that I was stopped twice in three days, and I think about what could be happening to other Black and Brown people who are getting stopped frequently,” Nelson said.