Portland Has Work to do on Behalf of Africans and Homeless Says Study Released Today


Portland’s Former Police Chief Frank Clark Who Ordered This Study Last Year Before he Left City Employment for a Position in the Private Sector at WEX.

Black or African individuals accounted for 17% of all arrests among Maine residents in Portland.  That stands out because this population represents only 5% of the Portland population.  It was also announced in a study this afternoon that homeless people represented over 1/3 of all Portland arrests.  These arrests were likely to be White, men between the ages of 40 and 59, and also more likely to be arrested multiple times during the 3-year period of the study that ran between 2018 – 2020.  The study found that the Bayside neighborhood accounted for 52% of all arrests among people that were unhoused.

The foregoing information was released this afternoon as the result of a study commissioned last year by Portland’s former Police Chief Frank Clark.  Before his departure for a job in the private sectory, WEX, Clark commissioned an analysis of the department’s arrest and traffic citation data to better understand whether racial and ethnic disparities exist in the decision to arrest individuals and to issue traffic citations.  It was the department’s intent to use the results from this study to identify if there was a need for any policy change to reduce these disparities.

The South Portland Police Department joined this initiative and the Catherine Cutler Institute at the University of Southern Maine and  Northeastern University were hired to conduct this analysis and were in part funded by he Roux Institute at Northeastern University.

“These findings suggest that the city should continue to invest in community-based services and interventions that help people who are unhoused, in crisis, and or grappling with mental health issues.” offered Sarah Goan of USM’s Catherine Cutler Institute.

“”While the study did not find stastistical evidence of biased-based policing by members of the Portland Police Department, we are committed to using data to drive quality improvement efforts,” said Interim Chief Heath Gorham.  “The Portland Police Department has recently expanded our behavioral health unit adding four social workers that work in an alternative response role, with the goal of directing mental health and substance use disorder calls for service away from law enforcement and connecting them with the services they need.”

“The Department sought this study to learn how it could build and improve upon its policy practices and we will continue to do that going forward,” said Interim Chief Gorham.