PORTLAND, Ore. — An independent review analyzing how Portland police officers interact with homeless people confirmed what was previously reported by The Oregonian: more than half of all arrests made by Portland police involved someone experiencing homelessness.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw asked for the review from the Independent Police Review (IPR), which oversees the city’s police bureau.
Amanda Lamb is the interim director of IPR. Her team reviewed more than 700 arrest reports from 2017 and 2018 involving 843 people who were homeless. Out of those 843 people, 65% had a prior charge in Multnomah County and 9% were arrested more than once in Portland over a two-year period.
“We found in our review, the majority of individuals who were arrested during the time period we reviewed had a prior contact that resulted in arrest in a previous year,” said Lamb.
The majority of the arrests happened in downtown Portland and the Central Eastside. The report also came to a few other conclusions:
- Officers aren’t consistent with how they interact with people who are homeless.
- Homeless black individuals were nearly four times more likely to be arrested by a Portland police officer than houseless white individuals.
- More than half of all arrests were because someone had an outstanding warrant, either for failure to appear in court or other charges.
- The justice system needs to come up with a better way for people to resolve their warrants, so officers aren’t simply arresting the same people again and again.
“It takes a lot of resources,” said K.C. Jones, senior management analyst with the city auditor’s Independent Police Review. “It’s a pretty decent size inefficiency from what we can see. I think it takes a lot more, though, between the city and county on how they want to address it.”
The review said Portland police needs to better identify their role in addressing homelessness and implement consistent direction for officers. It also said the bureau needs to do a better job of collecting data and recommends it works with criminal justice partners to minimize arrests.
In a letter responding to the report, Chief Outlaw wrote, “While your report did not identify any actions by the Portland Police Bureau that criminalized persons experiencing homelessness, we recognize your recommendations can strengthen our existing policies and procedures and improve data collection for future analysis.”
KGW's Lindsay Nadrich contributed to this story.