Independent Police Review publishes report examining how Portland Police Bureau deals with homeless crisis

A new report from the city of Portland examines how police deal with the homeless.

A new report from the city of Portland, Oregon examines how police deal with the homeless.

After learning more than half of the people arrested in Portland, in recent years, are homeless Mayor Ted Wheeler and Chief Danielle Outlaw ordered an independent review of the police force.

Wednesday, the Independent Police Review published its report which found that Portland police officers appear confused on what their role is, in regard to the homeless crisis.

There are changes the mayor is considering implementing when it comes to this issue, but he said there are civil rights issues he has to weigh when making these decisions.

To assess police interactions with homeless people, the Independent Police Review studied 843 arrests involving the homeless from 2017 to 2018.

It found more than 60 percent of those arrested had active warrant and while the majority of those arrested are white, the study found, that relative to the population black homeless people are more than three times more likely to be arrested than white transients.

The IPR suggested the bureau identify its role in addressing homelessness, implement consistent direction for officers, and work with criminal justice partners to reduce the number of repeat arrests. It also recommended PPB collect more data on homeless arrests.

“That sounds really good, but keep in mind the police bureau gets heavily criticized for collecting specific info about members of the public. some people don’t necessarily want to give a lot of personal info to the police bureau they don’t have to, they don’t feel comfortable doing that, so we have to balance the competing interest of collecting information and being transparent with the public against the same public’s desire that the police bureau not be overbearing in terms of collecting personal information,” Wheeler said.

The IPR uploaded the data sample from its study, allowing anyone to review it online in an interactive map.

Users can also add filters to learn more about each case.

Chief Outlaw released a statement in response saying, the report did not identify any actions by PPB officers that criminalized the homeless.

She also said she hopes the results of the review will help PPB strengthen existing policies.

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