Portland police officers are getting into the podcast business—and drawing mixed reviews.
The Portland Police Bureau today announced the launch of Talking Beat, a podcast where officers discuss topics like traffic, behavioral health and recruitment. So far, three episodes have been recorded.
In the traffic segment, officers Ty Engstrom and Chris Johnson offered an interesting take on walking safety. They say if you want to avoid being hit by a car, you should wear brighter clothing and avoid walking in the dark or rain.
"My feeling is pedestrians need to have a role of making themselves more visible because the driver as they're driving, what they're picking up on is going to be movement or some sort of visibility, being able to identify something out there in the road," Johnson said. "And they're scanning and sometimes the wipers are going, it's raining, it's dark. Sometimes the dash lights are there so they can't see as well as a pedestrian often thinks they're being seen."
Johnson gives some obvious advice: Look both ways before crossing the street and ensure that drivers see you before you enter a crosswalk.
But his suggestion that walkers do more to avoid being hit is more perplexing, given a recent study that shows inadequate lighting and erratic driver behavior are some of the biggest barriers to safe walking for low-income Portlanders and people of color.
The remarks also strike an odd chord considering the police bureau last September admitted to spending less time focusing on arrests of drunk drivers, and, less than two weeks ago, a six-year-old girl was hit in a marked crosswalk by a driver who sped through the bike lane.
In the podcast, officer Engstrom added that pedestrians—"not protected by that steel and metal all wrapped around them"—are more vulnerable, and that, "everyone needs to take their safety into their own hands."
His remarks quickly drew backlash from Portlanders who felt the officers were blaming victims injured by cars.
He also addressed a question from the show's host about traffic ticket quotas by saying there isn't one, exactly, but in order to receive ODOT grants officers are "encouraged to have a certain number of enforcement contacts per hour."
The full episodes, along with transcripts, can be found on PPB's website.