Portland police officers will be advised to no longer stop drivers for low-level traffic violations, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell announced Tuesday.
Officers in Oregon’s largest city will now be told to de-prioritize pulling drivers over for low-level violations, such as expired tags or broken headlights during the day, Wheeler announced in a statement.
If police do stop a driver and want to search the vehicle, they must first receive recorded consent and then inform the driver that they have a right to refuse, according to The Associated Press. Police will still be instructed to stop drivers when general safety is at risk, said Lovell.
Today, @ChiefCLovell and I announced two significant procedural changes to PPB. These changes are focused on increasing equity, reducing racial disparities, and improving safety in our city.
— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) June 22, 2021
Wheeler said during the virtual press conference that these changes are being implemented to promote equity and racial justice in policing.
“The goal of these two changes is to make our city both safer and more equitable, helping reduce the number of Black, Indigenous and people of color who are disproportionally impacted by consent searches and traffic stops,” Wheeler said, referring to Portland Police Bureau (PPB) data that showed black residents of the city, who make up only 6% of the population, account for 18% of traffic stops.
Chief Lovell, speaking after Wheeler, added that another reason for the new policy is limited staffing and resources. In the wake of significant budget cuts to the PPB, the department is operating well below “authorized strength.”
Over the course of the last year, the PPB has seen significant turnover, reporting a loss of more than 120 officers, according to The Associated Press. The bureau began to see an increase in resignations and retirements shortly after protests began last summer. (RELATED: Entire Portland Police Rapid Response Team Resigns)
“I know we have more work to do, but these changes constitute significant progress in our work to reform our public safety system for the better,” Wheeler said. “These reforms are steps toward more equitable policing and increased safety. Equally important, they reflect what this community is asking for.”