By Janet Goetze
For the Star News
Portland residents continue to view the Portland Police Bureau’s crime-fighting activities in a positive light, as they did in 2013 and 2015 surveys, according to a report from DHM Research, an independent, non-partisan organization.
However, the report said, “Residents were equally likely to agree as disagree that Portland police treat people disrespectfully based on race or ethnicity and mental health status.”
The survey was undertaken in October and November, 2016, as part of a city settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The work was on behalf of the city, the Compliance Officer Community Liaison and the Community Oversight and Advisory Board.
DHM Research was scheduled to present preliminary findings at the Jan. 26 oversight board meeting, but board members removed the presentation from the agenda, said Michael Cox, director of communications for Mayor Ted Wheeler.
DHM intended to present survey results to the public and incorporate feedback in a final report from the board plus feedback from the mayor’s office, the Portland Police Bureau and the Compliance Officer Community Liaison. The results weren’t shared with the public as they ordinarily would have been, Cox said, but they were sent to various news outlets for review.
As in previous surveys, Portland residents who had contact with the police felt they were treated fairly (90 percent) and were satisfied with their experiences (78 percent), the report said. Of those contacted by an officer for a traffic stop, citation or arrest, 71 percent said they were treated fairly and 59 percent were satisfied with how they were treated in the most recent experience with an officer.
However, members of marginalized communities had stereotyping concerns. Among African-Americans, 78 percent worried that Portland police may stereotype them because of their race or ethnicity. The figure was 53 percent among Native Americans, 50 percent of those from unidentified racial communities, and 42 percent of those from the Asian or Pacific Islander community.
The report said younger residents and those from the LGBTQ community “had elevated concerns about the police in many areas.”
Marginalized communities also had doubts about the police bureau’s ability to make long-term changes: 48 percent doubtful vs. 21 percent confident among African-Americans, and 49 percent doubtful vs. 28 percent confident among LGBTQ respondents. Six in ten residents said they would feel comfortable calling the police to help with a family member having a mental health crisis. However, of the three in ten residents having a family member with mental illness, 55 percent thought the relative’s mental health issue could affect interactions with police.
As in 2015, about half the surveyed residents were unaware of the bureau’s improvement programs. However, 40 percent were aware that officers have had training to help people having a mental health crisis, and 35 percent were aware of training to work with people of diverse backgrounds.
“Skepticism remained highest when it came to investigations of and accountability for officers,” the report said.