Police officers in Portland, Oregon will no longer have the means to tag known gang members with an official “gang designation.” The Portland Police Department has decided to stop identifying gang members and purge the gang member database it has developed over the last two decades.
According to The Oregonian, before this decision to change policy was made, “Police were able to add someone to the list if the person self-identified as a member of a gang, participated in a gang initiation ritual, committed a gang-related crime or displayed two or more observable signs of gang membership.”
The Daily Wire reports that community organizers in Portland have strongly expressed dissatisfaction with identifying and labeling individuals as “gang” members because they believe this has “disproportionately affected minorities.” The Sentencing Project notes that despite making up just 13% of the population in Oregon, African Americans represent 38% of the state’s penitentiary inmates. Additionally, 21% of Oregon’s prisoners are Hispanic, despite making up only 17% of the population. Known violent gangs like the Bloods, Crips, and MS-13 are not known as racially diverse groups, but rather have specific race-based identities.
Tracking gang affiliations benefits the safety of police officers and helps investigations into crime and with this decision, the work of a Portland police officer likely becomes more dangerous and hinders future investigations.