Portland has 5th worst arrest disparities in the nation, according to compiled data

By Jonathan Levinson (OPB)
Feb. 7, 2021 9:23 a.m.

Portland has some of the highest racial disparities in policing in the country, according to recently compiled data.

Portland police arrest Black people at a per capita rate 4.3 times higher than white people, the fifth worst in the country. Officers in Portland also kill Black people 3.9 times more than white people, according to data from Campaign Zero, a group devoted to reducing police violence.


The data, first published by FiveThirtyEight, looked at the 37 largest jurisdictions in the country and found that only Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, had more disparate arrest rates than Portland. Seattle and Portland stand out among the top five worst offenders with racial disparities, as both have been under federal scrutiny since the Obama administration because of excessive use of force.

When sorted by rates police kill Black people, Seattle and Portland are 8th and 14th, respectively. Chicago police, seventh on the list for arrest disparities, have been under a federal consent decree since 2019 and killed Black people at a staggering 22 times higher rate than white people.


Seattle police, who have been under federal oversight since 2012, reached an agreement to end their consent decree last year. A month later, massive protests nationwide erupted after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. The city attorney for Seattle withdrew a motion to end the federal oversight after the city received 14,000 use of force complaints in one weekend as a result of those protests.

In Portland, the Department of Justice found the bureau to be in substantial compliance with the settlement agreement last February. So long as the city stayed in compliance for one year, the federal oversight likely would have ended. Like Seattle, the violent and often indiscriminate police response to uprisings in Portland threw the city well out of compliance.

No decision has been made yet on the future of the settlement agreement in Portland, but it is expected that the Department of Justice will find the city out of compliance in the coming days.

Even if Portland were to come back into compliance with the settlement agreement – which focuses on how police treat people with mental health needs – there are other troubling data points that highlight racist patterns of policing in the city.

Black drivers made up 18% of the vehicle stops conducted by police in 2019, while 65% involved white drivers. Meanwhile, white people make up 75.1% of the city’s population, and Black people make up only 5.8%. The disparity is even higher for non-vehicle stops, where Black people made up 22% of the 2019 stops compared to 62% for white people.

Campaign Zero used federal data on the more than 8 million arrests made in 2019 to compile the arrest disparities data. Police killing numbers came from the Mapping Police Violence database, which has documented more than 8,000 police killings in the U.S. since 2013.

Other departments stood out for killing both Black and white residents at high rates compared to other departments. El Paso, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and Oklahoma City were the most violent. Oklahoma City police killed five white people per 100,000 residents while Phoenix police killed 7.2 white people per 100,000, nearly matching the Chicago police rate for killing Black residents.