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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Looking into Race and Arrests for Illegal Guns

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 3:14 PM

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Portland Copwatch's Dan Handleman was working overtime at City Council yesterday.

The regular Wednesday meeting was sparsely attended, with only three commissioners turning up and maybe a dozen people taking up seats in the rest of council chambers. It's summer. It's sunny. There's not a lot going on.

Except for Handleman, who was the only person from the public there to testify on three different council policy items back-to-back-to-back. On the docket were three police issues: Authorizing a grievance settlement and two agreements with the Portland police union, tweaking the boundary for the illegal gun zones, and allowing the IRS to reimburse the city for overtime that Portland cops spend on federal financial crimes cases.

None of those are huge deals unto themselves, but Handleman had some good points. On the illegal guns front, Handleman noted that the report on the crackdown shows that only three out of 13 people arrested have been white. Handleman drew a comparison to the city's late Drug and Prostitution Free Zones, which were shown to have a racially discriminate impact.

"Only 3 out of 13 people? That's 23 percent white arrests in a city that's 75 percent white. I'm not saying that's discriminatory, but I'm saying that does raise a few eyebrows," Handleman told the council. "I see the mayor's shaking his head at me, but it's true."

Mayor Sam Adams had a stern reply: "Significant numbers of African American Portlanders are victims of murder by guns in this city. There is a racial aspect to illegal use of guns in this city. It is awful, tragic, and we are trying to intercede."

So basically, Adams is saying that the disproportionate arrests of African Americans is okay in the crackdown on illegal guns, since African Americans are disproportionately victims of gun crimes in the city.

On to the other issues. With the illegal gun zones, the city spent months drawing the boundaries for "hot spot" zones that exclude people with a history of gun crimes and have tougher penalties for illegal guns. But somehow, no one noticed during all this hashing out of the hot spot zones that one of the areas is actually technically in Gresham. Whoops. The council had to tweak the zone to move it two blocks back into Portland's jurisdiction. With the police union negotiation, Handleman took the chance to criticize the city for outright lying that cop talks were public.

"This just shows how the city rushes though things and makes mistakes, then tries to decide things behind closed doors," says Handleman.

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