Officials intend to notify the approximately 300 people on the gang list that the bureau will purge all records related to the designations, The Oregonian reported.
Of the 359 “criminal gang affiliates” flagged in Portland’s database as of August, 81 percent were part of a racial or ethnic minority, an analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive shows. By far the largest block, 64 percent, was black, compared with just 7.5 percent of the city’s population who are black or mixed-race.
As from 15 October this year, the Portland Police Bureau will end the 20-year practice of listing gang members, because police say it could lead to “unintended consequences” and “stigma”.
“There are still criminal gang members. That doesn’t go away because we don’t have a gang designation,” Capt. Mike Krantz, told The Oregonian. “We’re not pretending gang violence doesn’t exist. We’re just taking this one thing away.”
Gang officers say the demographics of the list simply reflect the people involved in gang shootings and other crimes.
Leftist activists had long urged the police to stop attaching a gang designation to criminal suspects, claiming the practice disproportionately impacted African-Americans. A review of police data by The Oregonian last year found that 81 percent of the “criminal gang affiliates” in Portland’s database were from an ethnic minority.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the city’s police commissioner, said: “This is too long coming. It was the right thing to do.”
Until now police officers could list a person on the gang database if the person self-identified as a gang member, participated in a gang initiation ritual, commited a gang-related crime or displayed two or more “observable signs” of gang membership. Neither a criminal conviction nor an arrest was required to list a suspect to gang membership, but the knowledge had been vital to police work.
Portland police label some 100 people as gang members each year, according to The Oregonian. on the database, the name of a flagged gang member, will show up in a special report that includes any known information about nicknames, employers, schools, vehicles and associates.
Officers will no longer be keeping such information, says Krantz. Instead, they will record only alleged serious criminal conduct. “As times have changed, the Police Bureau in partnership with community members have realized being labeled a “gang member” can have a negative impact on the person who may be making attempts to overcome the life challenges they face,” the bureau said in a statement Friday.
Police say “new processes and technologies” now allow officers to investigate crimes without knowledge of gang membership, but did not elaborate on these posibilities.
Portland is the whitest major city in the United States, and has become even whiter. Of 354 census tracts in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, 40 became whiter from 2000 to 2010, according to The Oregonian’s analysis of the 2010 Census.
The city did not become whiter simply because lots of white residents moved in, the data showed. Some 10 000 people, mostly African Americans, also moved out.