Starting on October 15, state law enforcement officials will stop maintaining the database of suspected gang members and affiliates based on concerns that it disproportionately affects minorities. The database, which has been in use for over 20 years, will be purged of all data and documents that contain the designations.
As reported by Oregon Live, the Portland Police Bureau acknowledged that the database resulted in “unintended consequences,” particularly when those who were designated as affiliated with a gang turned away from the lifestyle and attempted to find employment opportunities.
Additionally, a review of the database showed that out of 359 “criminal gang affiliates” identified as of last summer, 81 percent of those listed would be classified as an ethnic or racial minority.
Capt. Mike Krantz stated, “Gang violence isn’t going to go away. There are still crimes attributed to known gang sets. There are still criminal gang members. That doesn’t go away because we don’t have a gang designation.”
Krantz, who is attributed with spearheading the change movement, continued, “We’re not pretending gang violence doesn’t exist. We’re just taking this one thing away.”
Individuals who are listed in the database will be receiving a letter from the Portland Police Bureau alerting them to the change and confirming any associated documents will be purged.
C.J. Robbins, a program coordinator for Black Male Achievement, stated, “It takes courage for the bureau to take this step.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as the police commissioner for the city of Portland, said, “This is too long coming.” He continued, “It was the right thing to do.”
Prior to the decision, law enforcement officers had the ability to add individuals to the controversial database regardless of whether they were convicted of a crime or even arrested. Police could add a person to the list if the person self-identified as a gang member, took part in an initiation ritual, committed a crime that was deemed gang-related, or displayed a minimum of two observable signs that they were a gang member.
Once designated, the information would show as a red flag when police officers ran a person’s name through their mobile database. Additional information, such as nicknames, schools, places of employment, vehicle details, and associates were also listed in the report.
Going forward, such reports will no longer be available. Only details about an individual’s past criminal conduct will remain on record.
The change is not anticipated to affect criminal cases associated with gang violence. According to Kirsten Snowden, a chief deputy district attorney with Multnomah County, present evidence will be accessible through other means.