FLOYD McCORVEY is a churchgoer. He's a community volunteer. He's 62 years old. He's a medical marijuana patient afraid of taking pills for the pain that lingers from his prostate surgery. He's also black. He's not—and says he never has been—a "pimp."
So imagine his surprise when two cops stopped him near his apartment in Northwest Portland last year and, as McCorvey tells it, decided maybe he really was a "pimp" after all.
The cop, Todd Tackett, and trainee William Green, asked him about a nearby woman he'd never met before, also black. "Is she a whore?"
He says they searched him, finding his brand-new pot pipe, and accused him of being a crackhead. They took the pipe. Then, at the end, they settled on a mere jaywalking citation.
McCorvey says he figured it all out pretty quickly. When two cops stop a black man and start right in on talk of pimping and crack before grudgingly landing on something like jaywalking, he says it feels like one thing: racial profiling.
"I'm 62 years old," he says. "And I know what it feels like when someone talks to me" that way.
But proving that objectively is an entirely different matter. And McCorvey's case stands as an example of how and why, even after deep changes in recent years, Portland's police accountability system still lets a lot of people down.
McCorvey went to court but lost on the jaywalking citation—even though, he says, Tackett admitted he also stopped McCorvey because he looked like a pimp. If he was guilty of jaywalking, and the judge decided he was, it didn't matter about the reason why he was stopped.
Except that it did for McCorvey. So he filed a complaint with the city's Independent Police Review (IPR) last summer. He was buoyed when they took it up for investigation and sent it to the police bureau's internal affairs division.
But he was frustrated months later when he learned what internal affairs and IPR had decided. Internal affairs looked into the allegation that cops treated McCorvey rudely but said it was "unproven."
IPR decided not to touch the claim that he'd been racially profiled, saying it wasn't worth checking into because it would be too hard to prove. The decision, IPR explained, came after talking to McCorvey and finding "there was nothing he could articulate" specifically showing bias. Everyone agreed he should have been given a receipt for his pot pipe.
McCorvey said he was offered mediation—in hopes of helping Green, the trainee, learn from the experience. But he declined, filing an appeal with the city's Citizen Review Committee (CRC).
His claims were given one more chance. The CRC, a citizen panel, asked IPR to reinvestigate the racial profiling charge—important, given complaints among people of color who feel like their concerns aren't heeded. IPR refused, citing rules. The city council doesn't let the CRC have that kind of power. Which means McCorvey's out of chances. And now we're all left to ponder why. Or why not.