Portland police will no longer prioritize low-level traffic infractions.
City Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell announced the procedural change Wednesday, citing their shared goal of improving public safety and increasing equity. Under the directive, officers are advised to no longer stop motorists for minor offenses, including expired tags, broken headlights, and other harmless “equipment issues.”
Wheeler said the move will help reduce the number of POC “who are disproportionately impacted by consent searches and traffic stops.” According to the Associated Press, Black people make up only 6 percent of Portland’s population, but they account for about 18 percent of the city’s traffic stops.
Officers will instead focus their time and resources on traffic violations that threaten public safety. If a cop determines a traffic stop is necessary, he/she must explain to the motorist that they have the right to refuse a search of the vehicle. Officers must also record the exchange and provide drivers a card that lays out their rights.
“Issues around consent searches are a national concern. This upcoming directive will ensure PPB (Portland Police Bureau) has a solid policy and procedures in place that appropriately document what occurred,” Lovell said in a statement. “I’m hopeful these changes will demonstrate to the community that we have listened to their concerns and feedback while also balancing the use of our limited resources efficiently.”
According to the AP, Lovell also pointed to the Portland Police Bureau’s “inadequate” staffing as one of the factors for the change. Earlier this month, an estimated 50 police officers resigned from the city’s specialized crowd-control unit after one of their team members was indicted on criminal charges. The officer has been identified as Cody Budworth, who was charged with fourth-degree assault for allegedly striking a photographer during last years’ George Floyd protests.
It’s reported that more than 120 officers have left their PPB posts over the last nine months; many of whom pointed to “low morale and burnout from racial justice” demonstrations that have continued since 2020.