Murmurs: Racial Disparities Persist in Portland Traffic Stops

In other news: Historical Society releases Hatfield tapes.

Mark O. Hatfield. (WW Archives)

RACIAL DISPARITIES PERSIST IN PORTLAND TRAFFIC STOPS: A report released earlier this week by the Portland Police Bureau shows little progress in reducing racial disparities in traffic stops, despite a highly publicized effort by Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell to no longer pull over motorists for minor infractions like broken tail lights. As WW previously reported (“Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” June 22), the discontinuation of low-level stops contributed to a 90% drop in all traffic stops in two years. But this week’s report shows the percentage of drivers pulled over who were Black actually increased from 17% in 2020 to 18% in 2021. Meanwhile, the percentage of stopped drivers who were white dropped, from 65% to 64%. (That’s far lower than their share of the population: More than 75% of Portlanders are white.) The trend has worsened in 2022: The number of drivers stopped who were white dropped to 63% in the first quarter of the year. The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

SALEM APPOINTMENT IS ALL IN THE FAMILY: Republican political consultant Reagan Knopp tweeted July 11 that he was “excited to be joining” the Senate minority office as chief of staff in August. In that position, he would work under his father, Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend). Although Oregon’s government ethics law allows lawmakers to hire family members to serve as “personal legislative staff” (and many do), the law, ORS 244.179, also says “a public official acting in an official capacity may not directly supervise a person who is a relative.” Reagan Knopp would work for the caucus rather than in his father’s legislative office. The Knopps could not be reached for comment, but Senate GOP spokesman Bryan Iverson says Tim Knopp has consulted the Legislative Counsel’s Office for an opinion on the matter. “Reagan would not start until Aug. 1,” Iverson says. “So we have time to look into it.”

LANDLORDS BLAME GOVERNMENT FOR LEGIONNAIRES’ OUTBREAK: Two local companies—Income Property Management and Northwest Housing Alternatives—face a pair of lawsuits after Legionnaires’ disease broke out at a North Portland apartment building they run for low-income seniors. But those companies are shifting blame for the outbreak, which sickened 14 people at Rosemont Court last year, to Multnomah County and the city of Portland. In a March legal filing in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the landlords called in the county and city as third-party defendants, saying the outbreak and its management were the responsibility of those governments. Michael Fuller, attorney for one of the plaintiffs, says that’s a deflection: “If you can prove you were working as an agent for the government, and they had a certain level of control over how you did their job, then the government is liable for any damages.” Both cases are expected to go to trial. In court filings dated in May, both the city and county deny responsibility.

HISTORICAL SOCIETY RELEASES HATFIELD TAPES: July 11 would have been the 100th birthday of former Oregon Gov. and U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.). Before he died at age 89 in 2011, Hatfield, who served in the Senate for 30 years and chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee, sat for about 50 hours of interviews with the Oregon Historical Society. The senior statesman stipulated, however, that OHS could not release tapes and transcripts of the interviews until his 100th birthday. A quick review of the tapes: Hatfield talks in depth about political contemporaries and rivals, including the late U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse (D-Ore.) and the late Gov. Tom McCall, and describes his affection for and consternation with President Bill Clinton and the time President Richard Nixon considered making Hatfield his running mate. Of the darker moments in Hatfield’s career, which included a car accident that left a young girl dead and his dealings with Greek arms dealer Basil Tsakos, which led to Tsakos’ secret indictment on bribery charges, Hatfield’s approach in the interviews was the less said, the better. The interviews are now available at

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