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While racial profiling did not exist, one local woman's fear did


When a Forest Grove police officer saw a driver talking on her cellphone near Verboort Road and Highway 47 a few months ago, he tried to pull her over. But the woman, who was African American, kept right on driving.

He followed her, his lights flashing. When she still didn't stop, he called for backup.

The woman looked behind her, saw a string of police cars following and got scared. She called 9-1-1. When she finally pulled over, she wouldn't roll down her window.

As the officers grew visibly more frustrated, she grew more afraid.

Finally, she rolled down her window and explained that she was scared to pull over because of all the news reports about police shootings of unarmed black people — also because she had no idea why they wanted to stop her.

She told officers she was heading to Ace Hardware — a more public place than the rural roads where officers originally tried to pull her over — because she didn't want to be "murdered in a cornfield," recalled officer Scott King.

King told her the Forest Grove Police Department does not have a history of bias and that she did not need to be afraid here because of her race.

The officers also informed her it's illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving.

The woman said she had recently moved from Louisiana, where it's not illegal, and she didn't know the law was different here.

The officers cited her for illegal cell phone use but not for eluding a police officer or additional, more serious charges.

Their main motive was to educate her — not just about Oregon laws but about the FGDP's professional conduct, King said.

In the end, he said, the woman left smiling. It was a learning experience for all involved.

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