Portland, Oregon mayor implies police profiling because half the arrests last year were of homeless people

by DCG

homeless in downtown portland

Downtown Portland…this certainly looks like a familiar picture

It’s not only Seattle and San Francisco that have a problem /crisis with homeless. Add the liberal utopia of Portland, Oregon to that list, too. In June 2017 Portland saw a 10 percent increase in their homeless population during the previous two years.

Gee, there’s seems to be a common denominator amongst these cities facing rising homelessness and crime…If I could just put my finger on it!

From Oregon LivePortland Mayor Ted Wheeler on Friday acknowledged it’s a problem that half of the arrests that police made in Portland last year were of homeless people.

The mayor said people who are experiencing homelessness or who have mental health and addiction issues should have fewer interactions with police and more with social service providers.

He said he wants to know what’s driving the statistics. “The real question here is, ‘Is there some sort of profiling or implicit bias?’” Wheeler said. “From my perspective, that’s the crux of the situation. The police should be focused on policing criminal activity, and that’s sort of the beginning, the middle and the end of it for me.”

The remarks came during a meeting with The Oregonian/OregonLive’s editorial board and were the most detailed the mayor has made since the newsroom published its findings last month.

The newsroom’s analysis showed that homeless people accounted for 52 percent of arrests, while making up less than 3 percent of the population.

He spent an hour-long interview discussing a wide-range of issues related to homelessness, housing and policing. He painted a conflicting picture of how the city is responding to its homelessness crisis.

He said Portland is using the “right strategy” and the “proven strategy,” to address the crisis and that cities along the West Coast “look to Portland for leadership.”

But at the same time, he said homelessness in Portland has been increasing (that’s liberal logic for ‘ya) and that the criminal justice system too often plays the role of social service provider.

“The criminal justice system is not the right place — or it shouldn’t be the place of first resort to provide addiction or mental health services,” Wheeler said. “It should happen elsewhere with no police and no judges and no juries and no jails.”

Wheeler said he thinks most people agree with that. “The question is how do we build the system?” he said.

Wheeler declined interview requests for the newsroom’s initial story about the arrests of homeless people. During a wide-ranging interview on Monday, the mayor said he wanted to know how many of the arrests were related to calls from the public as opposed to contacts initiated by police. He also appeared to be dismissive of the findings at that time.

Asked about the disparity in arrests, Wheeler told a reporter during the Monday interview, “I could play with statistics with you all day long.”

He continued, “We don’t have enough information based on a newspaper article to come to a conclusion. Does it warrant further evaluation? Of course, it does. Certainly, it does.”

On Friday, Wheeler called the newsroom’s investigation a “very thorough and, I thought, provocative report,” and he said he is taking it “very seriously.”

After the newsroom’s investigation, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon called on Wheeler and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw to investigate whether officers are profiling people who are homeless.

Read the whole story here.

DCG

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