Book Review: Policing the Open Road

Posted on April 20th, 2021 at 9:29 am.

The idea that cars = freedom is a pervasive American myth. The truth is that the rise of the automobile — and rampant illegal behaviors that have always accompanied it — helped give rise to an armed street security force that too often acts as judge, jury, and executioner.

Sarah Seo’s book, Policing the Open Road (2019, Harvard University Press), is a cultural history of how we arrived at the system we have today, told through the lens of jurisprudence and law enforcement. It’s about how governments scrambled to regulate the automobile revolution, about the overwhelming volume of laws they created, the need to make them uniform, and how the process of creating the rules of the road, and enforcing them, transformed America’s concept of privacy and freedom.

Take, for example, driving on the right side of the road. After being ticketed by a state trooper for driving on the wrong side, a man hired a lawyer who argued that there was no “wrong” side, that the law merely stated that you had to pull to the right when you met an oncoming car. That man had his day in court and won. It seems that proto-advisory shoulders were the law of the land in early 20th-century Iowa.[Read more…]

How to do better DUII enforcement: An interview with Columbia County Dep DA Kimberlyn Silverman

Posted on March 23rd, 2021 at 10:14 am.

Photo of crash scene where an intoxicated driver hit an ambulance on E. Burnside on March 6th, 2021.

An intoxicated driver crashed into an ambulance on E. Burnside on March 6th, 2021.
(Photo: Portland Police Bureau)

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Bill would allow non-police agent to review traffic camera citations

Posted on March 12th, 2021 at 2:18 pm.

Speed camera on NE Marine Drive.
(Photo: PBOT)

A new bill in the Oregon Legislature would remove a major barrier to the use of automated photo radar cameras.

Current Oregon law requires that every citation issued by a fixed speed camera must be reviewed by a sworn police officer. While well-intentioned, this statute has led to delays in citation processing, higher personnel costs to do the work — and most unfortunately — a bureaucratic reluctance to install new cameras.

In Portland for example, despite clear benefits of fixed speed safety cameras, they are installed in only four locations. That’s just eight cameras in operation since being given the authority to use them in 2015. One big problem is our procurement process, but the other is strictly due to police personnel.

An August 2019 story in The Willamette Week titled, Speed Cameras Save Lives. So Why Does Portland Have Only Eight of Them?, explained the police staffing bottleneck:[Read more…]

Portland Police Association says tragic traffic toll with continue “without proactive enforcement”

Posted on February 22nd, 2021 at 1:07 pm.

The president of the labor union that represents most of the Portland Police Bureau’s rank-and-file officers made a statement earlier this month warning people that a recent personnel shift by Police Chief Chuck Lovell would lead to dangerous conditions on our streets. I just realized today that that person – PPA President Brian Hunzeker — used an opinion piece he read on BikePortland to support his case. [Read more…]

Police Chief’s reorganization plan leaves no officers on traffic duty

Posted on December 15th, 2020 at 4:32 pm.

A Traffic Division officer during an enforcement mission outside Vernon Elementary School in 2014.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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A critique of a police statement that blames victim of serious collision

Posted on December 2nd, 2020 at 2:25 pm.

Scene of the collision on NE 78th and 13th in Vancouver.
(Photo: Clark County Sheriff’s Office)

A man is in the hospital with serious injuries following a collision Tuesday night in Clark County. It happened while he was bicycling on a major street in Vancouver about six miles north of Portland.

Only 12 hours after it happened the Clark County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that is very troubling. Laced with unnecessary details and biased language based on premature analysis not rooted in law or relevant facts, the statement lays all the blame on the bicycle rider and exonerates the car driver. It’s not clear what exactly happened because the bicycle rider is likely still unable to act as a witness on his own behalf, but that didn’t stop the Sheriff’s Office from spreading a version of events that will set the public and media narrative in stone. [Read more…]

Hardesty questions council’s commitment to racial justice after police budget cut plan falls 3-2

Posted on November 5th, 2020 at 4:37 pm.

Police ready to escort a bike ride in August 2006.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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Police chief, union leader warn budget cuts would end Traffic Division

Posted on October 30th, 2020 at 1:00 pm.

Traffic Division headquarters in St. Johns.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The head of the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Police Association union have sent out dire warnings about impacts to law enforcement capabilities if a proposal (PDF) for $18 million in budget cuts are passed by council next week. Chief Chuck Lovell and PPA President Daryl Turner have many concerns about the cuts including what they say would lead to the end of the Traffic Division — the unit that issues about 90% of all traffic tickets, responds to transportation-related concerns and investigates serious injury and fatal crashes.

As we shared yesterday, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly have laid out the cuts as part of their ongoing efforts to rein in a “bloated” budget and “rethink” policing — which they feel isn’t in line with Portland values and has become overly-aggressive and militarized.[Read more…]

A ‘cowardly move’: Vote on $18 million in police cuts delayed until after election

Posted on October 29th, 2020 at 3:12 pm.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty at a rally in downtown Portland on July 17th, 2020.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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Police budget cuts cripple bike theft response unit

Posted on September 25th, 2020 at 12:11 pm.

The Bike Theft Task Force booth at a Sunday Parkways event in July 2016.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The leader of the Portland Police Police Bureau’s Bike Theft Task Force (BTTF) says the unit has lost its only source of funding and will have to significantly scale back its work for the foreseeable future.

Officers with the task force had been doing regular bike registration events in partnership with Portland Parks rangers over the past few months. Last week Officer Dave Sanders took to the BTTF Twitter account to make the news public: “We are sorry to have to cancel this and other planned events,” he wrote. “Funding for our bike theft program is currently being suspended. Though the police bureau sees the value of these community efforts, we are facing larger budget cuts within our bureau that prevent us from continuing.”[Read more…]