The city's Independent Police Review has released its investigation of the Portland Police Bureau's handling of local hip-hop shows—and finds that city regulators, police officers and state liquor officials don't have a "unified policy" in dealing with concerts.
The review was sparked by a March incident where Portland-based rapper Illmaculate stormed out of his own show at the Blue Monk in protest of heavy police presence. The report says tensions between police and hip-hop artists have been amplified by a "lack of transparency" by the city about how venue inspections are conducted. "One way to move the conversation beyond conflicting narratives of whether police are present at hip-hop events more often than other types of music events," the review says, "is for there to [be] better documentation by PPB of the walk-throughs it does conduct."
Interviews were conducted with over 30 local hip-hop artists (including Cool Nutz, Glenn Waco, Illmaculate and Rasheed Jamal), promoters, police officers and other city officials. The report details the Blue Monk incident, as well as similar instances of police scrutiny that occurred at Kelly's Olympian and PDX Pop Now. Though it does not conclude that rap shows are targeted more than other concerts, the review writes that "[t]he belief in the hip-hop community that … events perceived to have a significant percentage of black patrons are subject to closer scrutiny … than other types of music events is one that should greatly concern City officials."
Five general recommendations are made to increase transparency in regard to venue inspections:
- A checklist of the City's expectations for "late night entertainment venues" should be readily available to promoters and club owners. The review cites an online "nightlife handbook" authored by Seattle's Office of Film and Music as a possible model.
- Police should develop a standard operating procedure for how it conducts walk-throughs. There are "no written policies or procedures" for how officers determine whether a situation at a club requires a walk-through or not.
- Walk-throughs should be tracked and made available to the public. There is a concern, the report finds, that not all inspections are reported back to dispatch.
- The City should maintain an extended dialogue with members of the hip-hop community.
- Fire Bureau inspections should also be tracked and made public, "[a]s there is very little information publicly available about the venues that the fire inspector visits," leading to the widely held perception "that hip-hop shows are subject to more fire inspections than other types of music events."