Opinion: Why words matter in police statements about traffic crashes

Posted on February 4th, 2019 at 2:47 pm.

Scottie Graser died after a collision with a truck driver while he was riding on Highway 30 on January 13th.

Most people think it was his fault.

The truth is, we don’t yet know exactly what happened. So why do most people blame Graser? Because the Oregon State Police said so.

The official crash statement released by the OSP a mere six hours after the collision read, “Preliminary investigation reveals… Graser… entered the eastbound right lane and a collision occurred.”
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PPB Traffic Division Sgt. on Ladd Circle: ‘We don’t want to do more enforcement’

Posted on January 31st, 2019 at 1:28 pm.

GIF made from Sgt. Engstrom’s video.

I want to clear a few things up about the recent kerfluffle around Ladd Circle.

Turns out the Portland Police Bureau is anything but eager to do more enforcement. That’s what Traffic Division Sgt. Ty Engstrom shared with me in a phone conversation today.

First, let’s recap: On Tuesday, the PPB issued a statement and shared a video about the lack of stop sign compliance by people who ride and drive through Ladd Circle. The statement included a video of people blowing dangerously through the stop signs (as you can see above, one person rides through just as another person steps into the crosswalk). The behaviors were taking place at intersections where we’ve covered the exact same problem several times since 2007. The statement also said, in response to multiple complaints from nearby residents, that the PPB plans to do enforcement missions. A mention of last year’s fatality statistics and the city’s Vision Zero efforts further tied Ladd Circle to the PPB’s ongoing safety concerns.

Unfortunately, the statement didn’t fully capture the agency’s thoughts and intentions on this sensitive issue.
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With video of lawbreakers, PPB will increase focus on infamous Ladd Circle stop sign

Posted on January 29th, 2019 at 3:42 pm.

Stop sign entering Ladd Circle.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

UPDATE, 1/31: Please read this update where I give Traffic Division Sgt. Ty Engstrom the opportunity to clarify and expand on his concerns about this issue.

Here we go again.

The Portland Police Bureau just released a statement saying they’ll step up education and enforcement efforts around Ladd Circle because road users are not coming to a stop and watching for others before rolling through.

Here’s the statement:

After receiving multiple community complaints about motorists and cyclists failing to heed stop signs and endangering pedestrians in the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood, the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division responded to assess the situation. Sergeant Ty Engstrom of the Traffic Division observed the area and also the practice of most motorists and cyclists failing to come to a complete stop as required by law at the intersections.

The Ladd’s Addition intersections are roundabouts with one-way traffic and many of the motorists and cyclists, in addition to failing to stop, are also not looking to their right to check for pedestrians who have the right of way. This puts vulnerable pedestrians at risk. This residential neighborhood has a high amount of pedestrian traffic as adults, children, and pets travel on foot.
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Police stopped 34 people during a ‘crosswalk enforcement mission’: Here’s what they got cited for

Posted on January 25th, 2019 at 1:29 pm.

East Glisan at 134th Place.

The City of Portland recently conducted one of their regularly scheduled “crosswalk enforcement missions” (a.k.a. traffic stings) on Northeast Glisan at 134th Place. Portland Police Bureau officers made about one stop every three minutes during the 90-minute mission and handed out a mix of citations and warnings for everything from careless driving to failure to wear a seatbelt.
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Portland Police deploy canine, air support units to chase down bike thief

Posted on September 17th, 2018 at 11:31 am.

Good girl Utzi!
(Photo: PPB)

On Friday evening we learned what great lengths the Portland Police Bureau will go to retrieve a bicycle.

It happened around 6:00 pm in northeast Portland when someone reported that a child’s bike had been taken from the front lawn of a house on the 5500 hundred block of NE Simpson Street.

The suspect was seen walking away with the bike and didn’t stop after several neighborhood kids asked him to return it. Here’s how the ensuing chase unfolded, according to the PPB statement:

Arriving officers obtained the subject description and learned from the family members that the subject might have boarded a TriMet bus with the stolen bike.

Officers were able to locate the correct bus. Officers observed a child’s blue bike matching the victim description, mounted on the bus bike rack. Officers flagged down the bus driver, who confirmed that a male subject matching the suspect’s description was inside the bus.
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Portland Police Bureau names (another) new Traffic Division captain

Posted on June 20th, 2018 at 11:13 am.

New PPB Traffic Division Captain Stephanie Lourenco.

On June 28th, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw will promote Lieutenant Stephanie Lourenco to the rank of captain of the Traffic Division. We follow that position closely here on BikePortland because it’s the Traffic Division captain who has the most influence over street safety and transportation-related issues.

Lourenco will replace Michael Crebs, who is taking a position in parking enforcement with the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The promotion of Lourenco to Captain is notable for several reasons: Stephanie is the first transgender person in the Bureau’s history to hold that rank, the first non cis-gendered person to lead the division since at least 2005, and just the latest in a long-running trend of short-lived captains at the Traffic Division. Since I started keeping track we’ve had Bill Sinnott, Marty Rowley, Vince Jarmer, Larry O’Dea, Eric Hendricks, Bryan Parman, Todd Wyatt, Eric Schober, and Michael Crebs. This frequent turnover makes it much more difficult to establish the the type of relationships with city staff, advocacy groups, and the community-at-large that we need to fix complex problems.
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The Street Trust puts street safety issues on radar of Police Chief Danielle Outlaw

Posted on May 10th, 2018 at 1:15 pm.

Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw attended an informal reception at The Street Trust last night.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

Portland’s 48th Police Chief doesn’t ride a bike because she thinks it’s too dangerous. But her path to pedaling began last night.

Danielle Outlaw shared her fear of cycling in traffic and other thoughts with a small group of people at an invite-only reception hosted by The Street Trust at their headquarters on NW Glisan Street in Old Town last night.
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Collision on SE Ankeny at 24th sends bike rider to the hospital

Posted on April 13th, 2018 at 1:57 pm.

View westbound on Ankeny right before 24th.

At around 8:30 am this morning a man was biking westbound on Ankeny when he was involved in a collision with someone driving an SUV.

The report first came from Facebook from someone who says they saw it happen. Here’s the account I was flagged on:

“Just saw someone in SUV Traveling at around 30 mph roll the stop sign on SE 24th Street and Ankeny (which is a designated bikeway) and hit a guy on a bike. The guy on his bike was headed west on Ankeny and had the right of way ( no stop sign). He was thrown about 15 feet. I called 911 and the ambulance and cops arrived within 5 minutes. The young man on the bike looks like he has a broken leg and wrist. The woman who hit him was sobbing hard as the cop interviewed her. Hitting someone on a bike with your car will mess them up. Please slow down and pay attention in town.”

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Undercover distracted driving sting leads to 107 stops in just 5 hours

Posted on October 13th, 2017 at 2:01 pm.

Like shooting fish in a barrel.
(Photo: Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

Just how rampant is dangerous driving and law-breaking among drivers? Our latest example comes from Washington County where sheriff deputies in Aloha went undercover to help educate the public about Oregon’s new hands-free driving law.

In five hours of work they stopped 73 people for violating the new law, passing out 11 citations and 62 warnings.

The Sheriff’s office called it a “non-traditional enforcement mission” (they prefer “mission” instead of sting) because they used undercover deputies. The plainclothes deputies stood on the sidewalk at intersections as “spotters” and would then tip-off other deputies when they saw violations.

Oregon’s new distracted driving law (HB 2597) went into effect October 1st (we have an in-depth post about it from our legal expert Ray Thomas coming Monday). It covers many more behaviors than the old law (which only focused on cell phones) and also applies when you are stopped in traffic.
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Oregon Governor signs anti-profiling bill aimed at racially motivated traffic stops

Posted on August 18th, 2017 at 1:28 pm.

Crosswalk enforcement action NE Killingsworth-6

Starting next year, the Portland Police Bureau will be required to report traffic stop data to the State.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

One of the many ways race intersects with transportation is with enforcement of traffic laws. National and local statistics show that black people are stopped and cited for road-use related violations at a higher rate than whites.

In their Unequal Justice series, Investigate West reported, “For everything from jaywalking to driving without a license, it pays to be white in Oregon if you run afoul of the law. What you really don’t want to be is black.”

Now there’s an Oregon law on the books that will give advocates and law enforcement officials new tools to analyze traffic stops and ultimately tackle racial profiling — or as Oregon law enforcement officials refer to it, “bias policing.”
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