Police in Portland OR have decided that as of October 15, the Portland Police Bureau will no longer maintain a two-decade practice of issuing gang member designations. This was done out of fear that the practice can lead to "unintended consequences," such as life-long stigmatization of even former gang members. Police will notify approximately 300 people listed as gang members that their records will be purged. 

"This is too long coming," said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. Wheeler, who is also the city's police commissioner, said: "It was the right thing to do."

According to The Oregonian, police Capt. Mike Krantz, "There are still criminal gang members. That doesn't go away because we don't have a gang designation." Krantz added, "We're not pretending gang violence doesn't exist. We're just taking this one thing away."

The paper reported that police data showed that in 2016 81 percent of the "criminal gang affiliates" in Portland's database belong to ethnic or racial minorities. 

The Gang Designation Policy was put into place more than 20 years ago to address increasing gun violence linked to gangs. According to a statement from the Portland Police Bureau, “It was developed to be an investigative tool to help police decrease escalating gun violence.”  In the released, police claim that new processes and technologies allow them to investigate crimes without unintended consequences.

An excerpt of the statement reads:

“People from our community who engage in violent crime and those who do so on behalf of a criminal organization will continue to be a focus of enforcement efforts of the Police Bureau. While enforcement and adjudication is an important component of stopping violence, providing meaningful services, community outreach, and relationship building is equally important. PPB strives to engage in each of those every single day in partnership with those such as the Office of Youth Violence Prevention (OYVP), the Multnomah County District Attorney's office, the US Attorney's office, Multnomah County Parole and Probation, the Oregon Youth Authority and many others.”

Leaders of an advocacy group known as Black Male Achievement, and former police Assistant Chief Kevin Modica, among others, called for an end to the gang designations.

All the same, Portland’s Gang Enforcement Team says that it will continue to investigate shootings and killings. So far in 2017, the team has responded to 81 shootings, assaults, or stabbings, which represent approximately a 25 percent drop compared to the same period last year. "There are still certain characteristics of gang-involved shootings,'' Krantz said. Local police have found that more shots are fired at each shooting. For example, on September 5, a house was struck by 28 gunshots and two more shots struck its front fence. No one was injured. It was not the house intended for the attack. 



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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