Nearly a week after the mayor's office missed a deadline to renew the city's Drug- and Prostitution-Free Zones (DFZs), a new set of data has emerged that—once again—suggests the policy is targeting African Americans.
In late July, private consultant John Campbell began analyzing the database of people who were given exclusions under the DFZ law between September of 2006 and January of this year. (Under the policy, a person arrested for drugs or prostitution can be excluded by a police officer for 90 days.) He was scheduled to deliver his findings to city council on September 12—two weeks before the zones expire—but he wasn't given enough time to finish the report, and the council date was scrapped.
But the Mercury has obtained a copy of the database Campbell is working from, and even though a more detailed report from him will emerge in the coming weeks, the raw numbers show a startling disparity between the way African Americans and Caucasians are treated under the policy.
For instance, 65.3 percent of African Americans who were arrested for possession were given exclusions. But their Caucasian counterparts—arrested for possession—were excluded only 54.5 percent of the time.
The numbers are even starker for people arrested for dealing drugs. A little more than 71 percent of African Americans arrested for distribution were given an exclusion, while only 51.6 percent of Caucasian dealers received the same punishment.
There's an even more interesting breakdown along the types of drugs that led to exclusions. For people arrested for cocaine dealing or possession—the vast majority of whom are African American—the exclusion rate was 68.7 percent. And yet, for meth users and dealers—the vast majority of whom are Caucasian—the exclusion rate is only 28.3 percent.
In simpler terms: According to the raw data, you are more likely to be excluded from a Portland neighborhood if you are African American, even if you are arrested for the same crime as a Caucasian. And if you're using or selling a traditionally "black" drug like cocaine or crack, you're far more likely to be excluded than if you're using or selling a traditionally "white" drug like meth.
Campbell wouldn't go on record with an interpretation of the numbers, but expects to have some preliminary data out in the next two weeks.