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Oregon State Sen. Lew Frederick Looks To Reduce Racial Profiling

Oregon state Sen. Lew Frederick, 2012.

Oregon state Sen. Lew Frederick, 2012.

K. Kendall/Wikipedia

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has put forward a bill that would direct law enforcement officers to record information about traffic and pedestrian stops. This is the most recent push in a prolonged effort to curb racial profiling by police. 

Oregon state Sen. Lew Frederick spoke with OPB’s Think Out Loud Monday about how the proposed legislation grew out of his efforts in 2015 legislative session. The new bill would require law enforcement agencies to record “stop data” — demographic information like race, ethnicity, and gender of drivers and pedestrians stopped by officers. Officers would also be required to record the time and location of the stop, and the reason for and outcome of the stop.

This data would be reviewed by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to identify possible evidence or patterns of racial profiling.

“In many cases, it’s those stops that begin a cascade of problems for a particular person or a particular group of people and we want to start knowing what’s going on with that early on,” Frederick said. “We would have real data that we could begin to work with.”

Several agencies, including the Portland Police Bureau, already collect stop data voluntarily. Frederick says he thinks standardizing this practice would build credibility for and trust in law enforcement in Oregon amidst a national conversation about police relations with people of color, especially African American communities.

The bill also includes some sentencing reforms. It would change the possession of small, personal amounts of Schedule I and II drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Rosenblum’s office is currently facing a federal lawsuit due to a complaint of racial profiling within her staff, but Frederick says he isn’t worried about that undermining the overall effort, which he says has a breadth of support in Salem.

Frederick brings his personal experience to this issue. He recalled having been pulled over multiple times outside of his own home and being asked by officers if he was “lost.”

“My hair is greyer now so I’m only stopped probably once a year now, but generally, I’ve been stopped for a number of things that were really clearly not safety related, it felt very simply like harassment,” Frederick said.

He says he hopes fewer people will experience those kinds of interactions, and that fewer groups will fear law enforcement, if this bill becomes law.

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