Garbage In, Garbage Out

It is insufficient for our government leaders to only proclaim a commitment and active practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the public offices of Washington County. The policy decisions of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office have a huge impact on safety, security, and livability for every person in our communities. In order to have true accountability, residents must ask specific questions and expect complete, fact-based answers. I commit to providing full transparency and community engagement in order to achieve true representation within the Sheriff’s Office.

The first step in achieving this commitment will be to implement better data collection practices. It is true most government agencies use faulty data practices which erase entire cultures and do not instill trust in self-reporting accuracy. However, federally mandated data categories do not prevent us from implementing additional data collection that recognizes and honors the wide diversity of our communities. Collecting accurate data that does not lump entire races into single categories, is the first step in discovering whether we treat people differently based on color.

The current sheriff reported data to the Coalition of Communities of Color for their Leading with Race report indicating certain minority populations in the county are not disproportionately arrested and incarcerated. However, not only does the office use the limited race categories used by the federal government, they also do not place any importance on properly recording the race of incarcerated persons within those categories.

It is true that there is a program which requires collecting race as perceived by officers called STOP. STOP data collection occurs only for officer-initiated stops at the point of first contact. STOP data is an important analysis but is completely unrelated to the internal booking systems where actual race is reported. I am referring to the race data collected when booking people into the jail. This data is routinely inaccurate.

When the current sheriff was asked, “It’s been stated that many minorities are coded as being “white” or “Caucasian” in internal Sheriff’s Office systems and that the data made publicly available is not accurate. What policies and procedures have you enacted or will you enact to make sure data is collected and properly coded and made available to the public?” he addressed only the data collection for STOP which requires recording race as perceived by officers while not addressing the data collection for arrested individuals.

Below is an illustration of this from the Sheriff’s Office website. The defendant below self-reports his nickname as “Chief” and his race as Native American. He has a few tribal tattoos, including a feather on his face. However, when entered into the sheriff’s office system, his race was entered as “W” for White despite an existing category for Native American.

 

I will immediately implement more comprehensive race data categories which can be collected in addition to the more limited categories reported for federal data collection. I also intend on ensuring every staff member is trained on the importance of accurate data collection and entry.

However, data alone means nothing if it is not properly handled and reported. In addition to collecting accurate data, I commit to involving the communities of Washington County in the examination of the data. It is a privilege to serve the varied communities we serve and a responsibility to demonstrate to each directly what the data shows. Washington County deputies are well trained and highly skilled. These deputies are absolutely capable of examining practices and procedures in relation to any impact discovered to be experienced by a particular community.

Check my blog again soon for a discussion about representation of the diversity of our communities within the sheriff’s office.

Thank you for reading,
Red Wortham
 
Red Wortham Red Wortham for Sheriff
PO Box 1623
Hillsboro, Oregon 97123
redwortham@redworthamforsheriff.com
(503) 987-0220
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