Portland’s controversial 15-year experiment in banishing drug criminals and prostitutes from major parts of the city ends Sunday as a new report suggests racial bias in enforcing the law, The Oregonian reports. The found that police ban African Americans arrested for drug crimes in Portland’s three drug-free zones at significantly higher rates than whites or Latinos. More than two-thirds of African Americans got exclusion notices, compared with slightly more than half the whites and Latinos arrested for the same crimes. “This is disparate enforcement,” said Mayor Tom Potter, who was police chief when the law started in 1992.
Since then, the city has told hundreds of citizens they can’t visit friends, go to a park or church, or just wander through areas designated as drug-free zones and prostitution-free zones. People don’t have to be convicted of a crime to be banned, a fact that has long bothered civil rights advocates. The new report by consultant John Campbell follows years of criticism that the exclusions are racist and comes as support for the law has eroded on the City Council. Potter, who supported the exclusions for years, now says they don’t end crime, but send it to other areas — another long-standing criticism of the law. Instead of the exclusion zones, Potter endorsed more jail beds and addiction treatment beds for criminals citywide.