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Amid spate of collisions, Portland Police Chief calls for more enforcement

Posted by on April 11th, 2019 at 4:55 pm

With 14 fatal traffic crashes so far this year and six in the past four days, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw couldn’t stay quiet any longer.

PPB Chief Danielle Outlaw.

Since she was hired in October 2017, Chief Outlaw has had many intense issues to focus on: from a crisis-level officer shortage to violent protests. She hasn’t engaged on transportation safety issues. Until now.

In a tweet posted today, Chief Outlaw wrote:

“6 fatal crashes in 5 days! 27 people have died on our streets this year. I am directing officers to increase enforcement, but this is everyone’s responsibility. Drivers slow down, don’t drive impaired/distracted. Bikes and peds use caution—don’t assume drivers see you.”

(Note: It’s unclear where she got the 27 deaths figure. To be clear, there have been 14 traffic-related fatalities so far this year and the PPB’s Major Crash Team has been called out 23 times.)

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Asked for specifics about the increased enforcement, Portland Police Bureau Public Information Officer Sgt. Brad Yakots wrote in an email to BikePortland, “Our Traffic Division and precincts are providing extra patrols in high trafficked areas. Our focus is education and outreach.”

“I want to make sure your support of Vision Zero is Vision Zero as it is now, which is not enhanced law enforcement.”
— Jo Ann Hardesty, Portland City Commissioner

Chief Outlaw’s call for enforcement puts her in the middle of an ongoing debate about how best to use police officers in Portland’s quest for safer streets. More enforcement is a common request when traffic crashes are in the news; but fears of racial profiling put it on shaky political ground in Portland.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Vision Zero Action Plan passed in 2016 with a host of recommendations from PBOT’s Vision Zero Task Force. Among them was a specific intention to limit enforcement, “In order to reduce the possibility of racial profiling and disparate economic impacts.”

This recommendation was not without its detractors on the Task Force. Newly elected City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has also expressed concerns about increased enforcement.

In a debate prior to her election last year, Hardesty said she’s “absolutely terrified of more enforcement.” “When I hear public leaders talk about enhancing police presence…we know African-Americans and Latinos are targeted for more enforcement than anyone else.”

And Hardesty repeated this concern at a City Council Budget Work Session on March 12th. During a presentation about PBOT’s budget, Hardesty said, “I want to make sure your support of Vision Zero is Vision Zero as it is now, which is not enhanced law enforcement, but more about notifying speeders to slow down.”

Hardesty’s colleague, PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, had a much different tone at the same work session. In her introduction to the PBOT presentation, Eudaly lamented the lack of more enforcement funding in the budget. “I’m really disappointed to see there’s no request for an increase in traffic enforcement,” she said. “In 2018 we had 27 murders in Portland. We had 34 people die in traffic deaths. We are seeing rampant disregard for the law and human life on our streets and the Traffic Division is seriously understaffed. Our city has adopted Vision Zero and we’re diligently working on that. We can’t accomplish our goal without support of Police Bureau.”

With Chief Outlaw now engaged on the issue, Commissioner Eudaly has momentum to push for more enforcement; but it’s unlikely to happen without a debate.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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El BicicleroMiddle of the Road GuyHello, KittyQq Recent comment authors
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Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Great news! (And about time.) I hope the chain of command embraces this and we see some citywide outcomes and this safety crisis is then supported by the community and courts.
[Sadly, it would seem…that few police officers pick this career and goto the police academy to enforce traffic laws for the outcome of safer streets for all… pedestrians, cyclists, youth and elderly plus drivers themselves…vs. the institutional acculturation of just catching the bad “hombres” and not your neighbor driving aggressively through a crosswalk with a pedestrian. ]

dwk
Guest
dwk

About time..
I have not seen a traffic stop of any kind in the last month or so and I ride 300 miles around this city each month.
I hardly ever see police in neighborhood streets at all….
Not many people in either cars, bikes or walking or following laws because they don’t need to.

Mark
Guest
Mark

News just rain a story about PPB being down something like 100+ officers. Could that have something to do with it?

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Who in their right mind would want to be a cop in Portland? Most thankless job ever.

Q
Guest
Q

Do you get thanked for doing your job? I sure don’t, and I do my job well, unlike most police.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I suspect it’s a little worse than just being “not thanked”. It’s thankless in the sense of being “difficult or unpleasant and not likely to bring one pleasure or the appreciation of others.” (as per the definition)

Q
Guest
Q

So? It’s not like they’re volunteer workers.

q
Guest
q

What’s your point?

q
Guest
q

Why do you believe “most” police officers don’t do their job well?

Q
Guest
Q

You don’t get out much do you?

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

How can you say they don’t do their jobs well?

9watts
Guest
9watts

thankless…

…make racist remarks about routine killing black of people at roll call = get $100,000 back pay from City Council and firing erased from record.

I can’t think of any other job where this is SOP. It may not be thank-ful, but it does seem to have its (jaw-dropping) perks.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

That’s pretty good pay for very little work. I’m surprised everyone doesn’t take advantage of that “perk”.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

HK,
I am surprised all of the people wanting change in the Police Department don’t apply for those jobs and show us how it should be done. Apparently there are lot of positions open.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Why is it that whenever people criticize the police, someone always says “why don’t you join it if you want to change it”? It’s obvious that not everyone who has legitimate criticism of the police is equipped for the job or willing to do it, and moreover, the notion that you can join the police force and effect change in the culture as a newbie is preposterous. Yet someone always has this absurd response. I’m willing to bet that those same people criticize politicians or people of other job descriptions and yet I don’t see them rushing to join those positions. What is so special about the police as compared to other lines of work?

9watts
Subscriber

“Yet someone always has this absurd response.”

Unfortunately yes.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

I’m glad you gentlemen are finally understanding what pragmatism is.

Officer Big Bucks
Guest
Officer Big Bucks

PDX cops are raking it in. Many if not most earn six figures, some approaching $200,000. That’s without a college degree and not counting fat retirement and healthcare plans. The out of control contract is loaded with pork with long lists perks and huge “overtime” payouts. https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2013/03/more_than_300_portland_police.html

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

If I remember correctly, the size of the traffic division has been reduced considerably more than the overall size of the police force. Jonathan did a story about it in the last year or two.

Where are the Police?
Guest
Where are the Police?

The people of Portland spend $221 million a year on their police. The PPD has 1,300 employees, according to the latest budget, https://www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo/77095. What are they actually doing?

mark
Guest
mark

Hardesty said, “I want to make sure your support of Vision Zero is Vision Zero as it is now, which is not enhanced law enforcement, but more about notifying speeders to slow down.”

Color me cynical, but asking speeders to, “slow down, pretty please” seems unlikely to work.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

While I’m sympathetic to and supportive of her concerns, that should not equate to little to no enforcement – because that hasn’t been working.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Yeah, you know what else disproportionately affects minorities? Pedestrian fatalities.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

100% agreed. But the concerns are real. I still want more photo enforcement.

Tim
Guest
Tim

Reducing enforcement of traffic laws is counterproductive to the goal of equal protection and treatment under the law. When you have laws that are rarely enforced, like traffic laws, enforcement of these laws appear (or actually are) harassment of minority groups. Example: drivers in Portland probably run stop signs 10,000 times a day, so a cyclist who gets ticketed is obviously going to think they were targeted (and they could be right). The solution is more enforcement not less. Automated camera enforcement deployed based on traffic accident history would be be hard to say is targeting minorities.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Don’t worry — someone will, conveniently forgetting that cameras don’t target communities, but, rather, protect them.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

>>> Color me cynical, but asking speeders to, “slow down, pretty please” seems unlikely to work. <<<

You need to put some sugar on top.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

This is Portland, so make sure it’s maybe some pure, organic stevia extract, or at least fair trade turbinado.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

I thought the biggest aspect of VZ was to make it uncomfortable, difficult, or near impossible to drive unsafely via road design, not necessarily enforcement or attempted shaming, although there might not be enough of those, either.

q
Guest
q

Maybe the police would have a bit more time to devote to enforcement if they didn’t have to cleanup for other agencies per my experience today. I called PBOT because there was a large (200-300 pounds at least) rock in the middle of the lane on SW Taylors Ferry Road. “That’s ODOT’s jurisdiction”. I called ODOT. “That’s PBOT’s jurisdiction”. So I called the Portland Police. “We’ll take care of it.”

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

You called the cops on my speed bump???

q
Guest
q

Yes, and they’re charging it with basalt, and it’s likely to end up in the quartz, although they may granite parole.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Rock on!

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

That was gneiss wordplay.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Gneiss indeed! Holy schist!

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I said “rock on”… I feel like such an inadequate idiot.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

I guess we won’t know until the final gravel whether it’s off to shale or not.

q
Guest
q

The rock issue has been solved. It got moved out of the road and left in the middle of the sidewalk, so it’s not a problem for drivers anymore.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Whew. That was a close one.

Scott Kocher
Guest

In the past PPB has not supported automated enforcement. A PPB Sergeant once told me we didn’t have enough officers but he opposed automated enforcement because it “lacks the human touch.” I hope in the current climate we can free up officers so they’re not doing tasks a camera can do, placement can be reviewed for equity and safety need, fines can be graduated based on income as elsewhere, and revenue (if there is any) can go to infrastructure.

mh
Subscriber

My current vote for comment of the week.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“Lacks the human touch”

Well, how about just a delayed human touch, then. After automated enforcement citations are ignored for long enough, we’ll send an officer to your house to “make contact”. That should satisfy the “human touch” requirement.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

We’re not going to reach our Vision Zero goals with occasional educational warnings. PBOT needs to step up their engineering to the point that 85% of drivers are afraid to exceed the 20mph speed limit (for fear of scratching their paint). That’s not painted 10-11ft lanes and additional 2ft shy distance from anything that could possibly harm your car. It’s more like being frequently confronted with a 7-9ft wide passage made of immovable obstacles and generally making every street except access-controlled highways unusable for crosstown travel.

David Hampsten
Guest

The “27 people have died on our streets this year” probably includes a certain number of homicides as well (drive-bys, etc), not just crashes. Remember that this a police officer speaking, not some flunky from PBOT.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Member

This gets to the heart of what is wrong with police. The answer to every problem is not more police it requires much bigger answers. We need to reform how our streets are designed and for who (currently it is the car, it needs to be humans).

Why are 50% of arrests people experiencing homelessness? We need to raise a lot more taxes and have a more robust social safety net. Again more police doesnt solve the problem..

No democracy has solved any of these problems with more policing. Someday I hope the police understand this because they could be a powerful ally in reforming the system for the 21st century.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

The answer to so many problems in Portland now, though, IS more police. Police being given permission to do their jobs would go a long way toward clearing up myriad cascading problems that have resulted in the degradation of neighborhoods and public spaces, rampant car, bike and other thefts, home break-ins, tagging tagging tagging and a general sense of despair and lack of safety.

I’m thankful to any Portland cop that’s stayed on the job in Portland. I wouldn’t.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

We need to start being honest that we have major drug problem and this is a city of enablers. No amount of housing will fix that.

JP
Guest
JP

No amount of police officers is going to fix the opioid crisis either.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

That’s true, sort of. Jail (or the threat of it) can be a big incentive to get people into treatment. Just waiting for someone’s life on the streets to become so intolerable they seek treatment is not exactly working for anyone, most especially addicts on the street.

JP
Guest
JP

Jail is absolutely not an effective means of rehabilitation (either in the social or addiction sense).

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Agreed, but it can act as an incentive if treatment is offered as an alternative.

9watts
Subscriber

“Bikes and peds use caution—don’t assume drivers see you.”

This was the part that I felt rankled. What is with the fake balance?

Civilians, don’t forget there are troops patrolling your streets; stay inside.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

It wouldn’t be a proper police statement without some victim blaming.

mh
Subscriber

As if we don’t make that assumption every minute we’re on the road. It’s why some sound bell or horn at any intersection where a moving car is visible.

q
Guest
q

This is a minor point in comparison to many others, but when I get referred to as a “bike” or a “ped” I don’t get the feeling the speaker is viewing themselves as part of those groups. She didn’t call drivers “cars”. I do it myself sometimes, but then I’m not making official statements.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Last night I saw a rider wearing dark colors riding without lights in the rain almost get hit. Most drivers would have had a hard time seeing him. I did, and I was on my bike, not 20 ft away. Things are rarely as clear cut as some of you like to portray.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

HK, why are you blaming that near-victim?

Pat B
Guest
Pat B

The problem in Portland should be obvious. And it starts at the top. Elect a mayor that gives a damn about the city and let the police do their job to get all those domestic terrorists off the streets. Then there would be safer streets.

9watts
Subscriber

“Domestic terrorists” – ?

You mean like the Patrot Prayer/Proud Boy goons the cops like to pal around with?

https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/10/15/patriot-prayer-again-brings-violence-portland-flash-march-downtown-rounding-out-weekend-far

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Goons, yes. Terrorists, no.

Adam M
Guest
Adam M

Way to go Jo Ann! We wouldn’t want the police to be policing our streets! No wonder why ppd can’t get officers to stay.

Rivelo
Guest

About a year and a half ago, I exchanged emails with the police captain then in charge of traffic enforcement regarding some ongoing speeding issues we were/are having in our neighborhood in NE Portland.

He told me that on any given day, he had 4 officers available to him for “enforcement,” and zero back-ups for vacations and sick days.

In fact, other departments were pulling from *his* staff to cover those absences in their departments.

Four officers –on a good day– for 145 square miles of Portland, Oregon.

That right there is some scary s–t.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Traffic enforcement should be a no brainer. It’s fast, easy and lucrative. Hand out the tickets. Collect the money. In extreme cases confiscate the vehicle and sell it.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

That how they do it in Mexico. You can pay your fine on the spot, if you use cash.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

“pay the fine”

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I prefer to think of it as driver education tuition.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

This city has lost it’s bike mojo…big time.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Portland is at least treading water. Little sister Eugene has seen cycling absolutely collapse (down to 4.4% of commuters in 2017 from a high of 10.8% in 2009). Graphing out the trend from 2012 creates a very tight line with R^2=0.85, p<0.01). Eugene will have no cyclists left by 2023 if this trend continues. That's what a city that has lost its cycling mojo looks like.

I know the suffering in Eugene doesn't make PDX any better, but I hope there may be some lessons to be learned from locales that fail while trying diligently to succeed that can prevent other cities from the same dismal fate.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Eugene definitely has a problem. I just did a little math, and if current trends continue, by 2030, their cycling rate will actually be negative.

q
Guest
q

You spelled meth wrong.

JJJ
Guest

Camera enforcement is needed. There is no bias/discrimination issue with them if they are installed at high crash locations. You speed, you pay, period. Doesnt matter who you are or who you know.

Fred
Guest
Fred

I agree 100% that more speed and red-light cameras are needed. They don’t discriminate based on the race of the driver, and if you’re breaking the law, you get cited. Simple.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

I definitely would like more speed cameras too. However, it is not an inherently unbiased system. It can be abused. There is still a human review of the citation before it gets mailed.

mh
Subscriber

So remove that labor-intensive step and automate the system even further.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I don’t care who is driving the car. The owner of the plates should get the ticket.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Why would you want to let the driver off the hook?

J_R
Guest
J_R

I think that Dan is assuming that if the owner is not the driver, the owner definitely knows who was. For example, a car-owning parent who gets a citation based on a car exceeding the speed limit by 20 mph or blowing a red light just might crack down on the child who was using it. As I understand it, if the gender of the car owner does not appear to “match” the driver, the citation is not even sent to the vehicle’s address of record.

Iceman
Guest
Iceman

How do cameras help with bike riders who ignore stop signs or red lights? Is there a way to identify bike owners the way we can identify car owners?

Jay Dedd
Guest
Jay Dedd

If there is, I propose starting with the two-ton, seven-foot-wide, 200-horsepower bike riders.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Yes, let’s get to work on Vision Zero by first starting with the vehicles that do the least amount of damage.

q
Guest
q

What’s your point? Cameras don’t detect dogs with expired pet licenses, either.

Michael Ingrassia
Guest
Michael Ingrassia

I’m mad as hell. They now have 20mph signs everywhere. Time to pull over every red light racer. Time to get cops looking from a bikes eye view into peoples drivers windows to see the cellphone in their lap and signaling to their partner a block away to pull them over with the others. Time to treat negligence behind the wheel as the antisocial use of a deadly weapon that it is. Can you take out your gun and wave it around in a bar? No. You shouldn’t be able to hot rod around in your car either.

Rivelo
Guest

Or smoke in an elevator.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Or bike in a tree.

Joyce Lefforge
Guest
Joyce Lefforge

The only way to reduce these accidents is for all people to be more responsible and aware of their surroundings. You can add more officers and cameras, but if people don’t change the way they act, nothing will change.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“all people to be more responsible”

= false equivalency, assumed level playing field, *both sides* trope.

q
Guest
q

The point of adding more officers and cameras is to increase enforcement, with the idea that increased enforcement will change people’s behaviors–which seems like a reasonable outcome. Of course “if people don’t change the way they act, nothing will change”. But increasing enforcement seems like a logical approach to getting them to change.

SD
Guest
SD

One immediate improvement would be for all communications from the Portland Police and all other city agencies to stop “both-siding” their street safety message. Across the board, the data show that driver behavior contributes to pedestrian injury and fatality far more than that of pedestrians. Despite this, many people as well as many media outlets believe that the cause is distracted pedestrians. If there is any point to making a public statement like the one from Outlaw, it is to give drivers pause to consider if they are driving in a way that is more dangerous than it needs to be. When the PPB calls out pedestrian behavior, it is interpreted by many drivers to mean that their windshield-biased notion that it’s the victim’s fault is true. And, since they already consider their driving habits safe, regardless of whether they speed or drive while looking at their cell phones, this message just reinforces their idea that every thing they do is fine, because nothing bad has happened to them yet, or if it has it was just once or twice.

Statements like these show that very few in Portland government have taken the very first baby steps of understanding Vision Zero that include, at the least, making statements that target the most harmful factors in road safety.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

Comment of the week

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Which is why we need more stringent enforcement to teach people those things are not acceptable or safe.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I’d like to know who’s going to stop our local police from speeding. I was just outside working in the yard and a Sheriff went by and got the speed monitor down the street blinking “SLOW DOWN SLOW DOWN.”

Ruben
Guest
Ruben

Redesigning the streets is an effective first strategy. Streets that have had a road diet, like division between the 60th and 82nd or Glisan between 53rd and 82nd have seen decreased accidents. Frankly, I’d like to see Cesar Chavez be 2 lanes with a middle turn lane. The speeding and passing to get around cars turning left is a crazy hazard to other cars and pedestrians. If a street looks safe to drive fast, people will drive fast. In residential neighborhoods in SE, people drive fast because the streets are wide and often there are no stop signs. Also, street lighting in Portland is atrocious. Put some street level lights at the corners or at crosswalks. For that matter, paint some crosswalks. In the dark and the rain, it’s hard to see bikers and pedestrians.

All that being said, I think enforcement is important. The drivers of Portland feel invincible because there is NO enforcement. Even random enforcement that rotated from neighborhood to neighborhood would be better than none. And put in red light cameras. It’s crazy how endemic running red lights has become.

don’t assume drivers see you
Guest
don’t assume drivers see you

“don’t assume drivers see you”

that says it all right there, doesn’t it?
and that is where the majority of drivers feel the responsibility ultimately lies.

the ONUS is literally ON US.
So they no longer have to look out for us or attempt at operating their tonnes of motor vehicles safely, since they truly believe it is up to us to be responsible for our own safety, hell, for our own LIVES.

It just keeps getting uglier out there.

9watts
Subscriber

Some of the liveliest discussions here on bikeportland have been on this topic, going back to the very beginning. But you are right to highlight that statement.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Truck drivers are targets for random and enhanced enforcement year round and are often targeted for the mere act of parking. They are targeted whether they are black, white, brown or blue. We need trucks, we rarely need driving. Sorry, if you are in a car expect to have your papers checked and your laws enforced.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Just don’t violate the Constitution while you’re asking for my papers, please.

Q
Guest
Q

Being required to provide identification after you are caught committing a crime is in no way a violation of the constitution.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I agree. I didn’t realize that when you said “random enforcement” and “if you are in a car expect to have your papers checked” you meant only those who were caught breaking the law.

My bad.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Correction: Mark smith said it, not you.

Chris Imondi
Guest
Chris Imondi

Automated enforcement is the answer. I drove outer-Division yesterday, and the 30mph limit and speed cameras have drastically changed the average speed. Not a single person was doing over 35. A year ago, people would have been blowing by me at 50mph. We need legal authority to put speed cameras on every major street in the city.