Oregon city hires consultant to probe police racial bias

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland, Oregon, has hired a California consulting firm to investigate whether the culture of the city’s police force includes racial or political bias after someone leaked police and dispatch records that incorrectly identified a Black city commissioner and frequent law enforcement critic as the suspect in a hit-and-run accident.

Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said Thursday in a joint statement that Portland hired the independent OIR Group and will spend up to $150,000 for an investigation that probes whether the Portland Police Bureau’s culture, polities and actions are influenced by racial or political bias, the extent of the bias and how to address a potential problem.

The report will be completed by the end of the calendar year.

The decision to engage an independent firm to investigate the police force’s culture comes after someone leaked police and dispatch reports last month that incorrectly identified Hardesty, who is Black, as the suspect in a hit-and-run accident.

The president of the Portland police union resigned shortly after the leak occurred, citing an unspecified mistake he made related to the incident. The union’s executive board issued a public apology to Hardesty, and Wheeler ordered an internal investigation into the leak.

Hardesty, who is the city’s first Black female commissioner, has been a fierce advocate for police reform both before and after her election. She most recently backed efforts to cut police funding amid racial injustice protests over George Floyd’s killing.

The city approved $16 million in cuts to the police budget last summer, including to a gun violence reduction unit, the school resource officer program and transit officers.