Portland Police bureau changes policy on traffic stops to address racial disparities

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(PORTLAND, Ore.) — The Portland Police Bureau has changed its policy on traffic stops to address racial disparity and public safety, officials announced.

Officers have been directed to no longer engage in traffic stops for low-level violations and to instead focus on poor drivers — those who speed and drive under the influence, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a press conference Monday.

Minor infractions including expired license plates and broken headlights will no longer be pursued by police unless there is an immediate threat to safety, Wheeler said.

Another change to the policy involves obtaining consent to search a vehicle that has been stopped. Police must receive recorded consent and inform the driver that he or she has the right to refuse before a search of the vehicle is permitted, Wheeler said.

Officers will still use their judgement for violations that appear to be an immediate threat, such as a car driving at night without lights on, said Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell.

Black drivers account for 18% of traffic stops in Portland despite only making up 6% of the population, Wheeler said, adding that Black drivers are disproportionately impacted by traffic stops.

“As the mayor and police commissioner, I’m committed to making the kinds of improvements to the police bureau that provide greater fairness and ensure equitable policing,” Wheeler said.

Limited staffing within the police bureau is another reason why the changes to the traffic stop policies were made, Wheeler said. In 2019, officers made about 33,000 stops, a quarter of which were for non-moving violations, ABC Portland affiliate KATU reported.

Last week, the bureau’s entire crowd control unit resigned after one officer was indicted on a protest assault charge.

Portland Police bureau officer Corey Budworth was charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault for what prosecutors described as an “excessive and unlawful use of force” when he struck a woman in the head with a baton during a in August 2020.

The crowd control unit team, which consisted of about 50 officers primarily responsible for providing public safety at crowd events, is a voluntary assignment, and all of the officers will remain on the force and continue their regular assignments, according to the bureau.

“They were concerned that they weren’t getting the kind of support that they’d like to see either from elected leaders or the community of large,” Wheeler said of the resignations on Monday.

Budworth has been placed on administrative leave.

ABC News’ Jeffrey Cook and Meredith Deliso contributed to this report.

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