Hall Monitor 

Cops Ignoring a Big Question

IT'S BEEN a little over nine months since the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office officially rebooted the city's racially problematic drug-crime exclusion zones in a bid to drive out the open-air drug markets that have taken root in places like Old Town and Lloyd Center.

By some measures, the partnership has been a success. Neighbors, cops, and advocates say the zones—now called "drug impact areas"—have begun clearing away dealers while providing a clear path for addicts with years in the life to hoist themselves into treatment.

According to others, things aren't so rosy. Although the new stay-away orders are based on a judge's decision, a purported tonic to the racial profiling that marred the old zones, the areas still wind up ensnaring a disproportionately high number of black Portlanders.

But while the DA's office is doing its part—regularly releasing statistics that show how the drug impact areas are working, even if those numbers aren't perfect—Portland cops have been disturbingly silent when it comes to producing data that might shed light on their own role in the arrangement.

For the second time in three months ["New and Improved?" News, Jan 26], the Portland Police Bureau has ignored a Mercury request for information on how the program's 400-plus exclusions are being enforced.

The bureau still won't say whether or not it's tracking arrests related to the exclusions and, if it is, whether it's also analyzing that data demographically. Lieutenant Robert King, the lead bureau spokesman, said he'd look into that question for me last Wednesday, May 2, and that was that. King didn't return a follow-up message left on Monday, May 7.

Are Portland cops using the exclusions as a pretext to target minorities? Are they letting white violators off with a warning more often than others caught violating the exclusion orders? I hope not. We don't know. But given that it was the behavior of Portland cops that drove city officials to cast aside the old drug-free zones, those aren't insignificant questions.

Meanwhile, Billy Prince, the deputy district attorney who runs the drug impact area program, has at least confirmed that arrests are happening.

At city hall last week, he made sure to tell the Portland City Council, "We haven't had a judge find that someone who's in violation of being back in the zone was there properly"—as in, showing up for work, a social services appointment, or school.

When I asked him about that comment on Tuesday, May 8, he reiterated that it was up to the cops, and not his office, to produce that data. But he also said—echoing a lot of Portlanders—that he'd like to see it, too.

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