Police use force against people of color at higher rates, TPD numbers show

Tigard Police

Black, Latino and other people of color in Tigard are overrepresented in police use of force incidents over the past three years compared with their proportion of the population.

Tigard Police Department statistics on use of force incidents from 2018 through 2021 for resolved cases show that nonwhite residents are subjected to use of force at rates that are much higher than their proportion of the population. Black residents, which make up just 1.1 percent of Tigard’s population, according to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau statistics, have been the subject of use of force in 28 percent of incidents (16 out of 57 use of force incidents) in 2018, 12.7 percent of incidents (7 of 55) in 2019 and 14.8 percent of incidents (7 of 47) in 2020. 

“The numbers are small,” Tigard Public Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) member Jimmy Brown said at the group’s Aug. 23 meeting. “But relative to the percentage of population, this says to me that there may be some additional need for the department to possibly analyze force response as it relates to impacting people of color and attempt to identify the types of force that were used, the causes of the force used and the necessity for that particular type of response.” 

Use of force refers to any incident in which an officer uses a control hold, hits, strikes or otherwise uses their feet or hands against a person, or employs a weapon of any description, even if it is just to brandish the weapon and not use it as designed.

Hispanic or Latino residents comprised 12.6 percent of Tigard’s population in 2019 but were subjected to 17.5 percent of the police department’s use of force incidents in 2018, 20 percent of incidents in 2019 and 12.7 percent of incidents in 2020. 

White residents, which comprised 72.8 percent of the population in Tigard in 2019, meanwhile, were involved in 52.6 percent of the department’s use of force incidents in 2018, 63.6 percent in 2019 and 70.2 percent of incidents in 2020. No other racial or ethnic group was involved in more than one use of force incident in any single year, according to police statistics. 

The numbers in the most recent police data do not distinguish what level of force was involved in any given incident, but none of those incidents involved the use of lethal force. The January 2021 case involving the shooting death of Tigard man Jacob Macduff was not included in these figures because at the time they were compiled that case had not been fully resolved. 

The numbers were further broken down at the Sept. 13 PSAB meeting. There, Tigard Police Lt. Neil Charlton, presented new data from 2020 and 2021 that helped put context to the numbers, which show that Tigard Police used force against Black residents in nine out of 59 use of force incidents during those two years, adding two to the total this year. 

“The African-American population in Tigard is about one percent of the population,” board member Valerie Sasaki said. “So, I’m concerned when I look at the force responses and nine of them involve African-American individuals.” 

Charlton noted several reasons for the disparity in numbers, including the department’s participation in TriMet’s Transit Police, a role the department discontinued for 2021. 

“Not all of those incidents occurred within Tigard,” he said. “You will have at least three that occurred in the city of Portland related to transit issues, and then two occurred around Washington Square Mall where you get folks traveling to the mall for different purposes. One particular incident I can recall from my data is a person passing through Tigard who was involved in an altercation that drew a police response.” 

Charlton also detailed the “exhaustive” review process undertaken by the department with each use of force incident, no matter how minor. This includes detailed reporting by the officer(s) involved, and a review of those reports by supervisors through the entire chain of command up to the chief of police. 

“We look at it from the perspective of: were policies followed? Were policies violated?” Charlton said. “We look at it from a training aspect, because an officer could do everything right and we could gain something from that for a training perspective.” 

Board member Shaun Stuhldryer said he shared Sasaki’s concerns but also noted that the overall number of 59 force response incidents should be put in context beside the 35,151 police contacts with members of the public recorded during 2020.