Brittany Soares reports that on October 15, Portland police will end their more than 20-year-old practice of designating people as gang members or gang associates in response to the community complaining about the labels that have disproportionately affected minorities.
In other words, gang members aren’t white enough…
The Police Bureau said that the gang designations have served as lifelong barriers for those who have shunned the gang lifestyle and tried to get jobs.
From Oregon Live:
A review by Oregonian/OregonLive reporter Carli Brosseau last year found that of the 359 “criminal gang affiliates” flagged in Portland’s database as of last summer, 81 percent were part of a racial or ethnic minority. She obtained the list, names removed, only after appealing the city’s attempt to keep it from public view.
Leaders from Black Male Achievement, former police Assistant Chief Kevin Modica and others have lobbied to end the designations.
“Gang violence isn’t going to go away. There are still crimes attributed to known gang sets. There are still criminal gang members. That doesn’t go away because we don’t have a gang designation,” said Capt. Mike Krantz, who helped spearhead the change. “We’re not pretending gang violence doesn’t exist. We’re just taking this one thing away.”
Krantz said Friday that the Police Bureau has considered ending gang designations for two years as gang enforcement officers met with parole and probation officers, community members and others to figure out the details. They recently got the approval of former Chief Mike Marshman and current Interim Chief Chris Uehara.
The move also comes as city auditors since last fall have closely examined the bureau’s Gang Enforcement Team and its work.
Police will send out letters to everyone on the gang list alerting them that the bureau will purge all documents related to the designations. The new policy will take effect Oct. 15.
“It takes courage for the bureau to take this step,” said C.J. Robbins, program coordinator for Black Male Achievement.
Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as the city’s police commissioner, is also happy with this step. “This is too long coming,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”
Wheeler, who recently selected the first African American woman to serve as the bureau’s new police chief, said the decision shows that city police are committed to rebuilding trust with the community.
Yeah, about that. Gangs are untrustworthy and ruthless, and you’re asking for an increase in violence in your city if you don’t label them as the misguided animals they are.
The Oregonian/OregonLive review of the controversial gang affiliation database showed that police labeled someone a “criminal gang affiliate” more than 100 times each year, without a conviction, without an arrest. Police were able to add someone to the list if the person self-identified as a member of a gang, participated in a gang initiation ritual, committed a gang-related crime or displayed two or more observable signs of gang membership.
Sounds like a pretty valid way to see if they’re a part of the gang life…
With the change, police will instead record alleged criminal conduct, such as a person’s past possession of guns or involvement in a shooting, which may pop up as a flag on a computer screen and still help alert officers to a potential threat.
Great idea. So let’s wait until the scoundrel kills someone to label them as a threat.
Choo Fair, who works as a mentor for Multnomah County probation and parole and is a former Bloods gang member, praised the move.
“It’s a beautiful thing. They can no longer label anybody,” he said.
Labeling isn’t a bad thing. When you put labels on folders, they help you find what you’re looking for. Police labeling people as potential gang affiliates can save lives.
The truth is that Hispanics and African-Americans make up the majority of gangs. The law affected minorities because minorities are the ones committing the crimes.
Plus, gangs already label themselves by killing one other just for being in a different gang. That’s the most violent kind of discrimination there is.
If the community is so worried about current and past gang members not being able to turn their life around and get a job, then that’s the problem that should be focused on. There should be no mention of minorities or labels or trust.
What do you think about this decision? Sound off in the comments below!