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Police Commission Discusses Bias Policy

Eugene’s Police Commission is hoping to improve the police department’s “professional police contacts” policy, which says in its draft version, “This policy states unequivocally that bias-based profiling by the Eugene Police Department will not be tolerated.”

City Councilor Greg Evans, who is African American, says he believes he has been affected by racial profiling in Eugene.

“I’ve been stopped in this community — between the time I was 28 and 45 years old — 43 times with only two citations,” Evans says.

The commission is working in an advisory capacity to EPD Chief Pete Kerns in the creation of the policy and will hear feedback from a panel of five to seven people chosen for their experience in the community. The policy will outline under what circumstances an officer should collect personal information, such as race or gender, to be entered into the department’s new reporting software. It will be enacted in July and reviewed one year later.

“The good is we can possibly see there are some stops that are racially motivated,” Police Commissioner George Rode says. “The bad of it is, you know, the invasiveness of it — here’s another government bureaucracy collecting stuff on me.”

In addition to concerns about the public’s unwillingness to share personal information, some commissioners say the policy has potential to be too time consuming or restrictive for officers.

“I’m a little concerned about loading a lot of very fine tuning on at the front end and finding we’ve created something that is either unworkable right out of the gate or that collapses … somewhere down the road,” Police Commissioner Edward Goehring says.

The policy previously stated that all police contacts requiring detention must be reported. It was revised during the Feb. 13 meeting to say all contacts that become a stop, as defined by department policy, or arrest must be reported. Drawing the line between interactions that do or do not need to be reported has been a challenge for the commission. 

Goehring says the complaint that he’s heard consistently from people is, “So and so says their kid was stopped, or they were stopped, they didn’t like the way it went, and when they went to the police department or the police auditor, they were told there was no record of this.” 

The committee will also need to decide whether they want police to ask or infer race. “The way we do it now,” Kerns says, “is we choose a race, and that’s what we put in our police report when we enter in the data.”

Community members will have a chance to submit written questions to be introduced into the 90-minute discussion during the Police Commission’s 5:30 pm March 13 meeting at Harris Hall. The commission will also hold a public forum April 3 where all community members will have a chance to provide feedback.