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CNBSeen Explained

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Don Merrill seeks to create a non-profit organization in Portland Oregon to enhance public safety by benefiting high-risk individuals most likely to be stopped by the police for improperly functioning vehicle lights. Specifically, those being drivers of color.

Establish a non-profit that reduces the number of discretionary police traffic and patrol stops for malfunctioning vehicle lights by providing a means for which high risk drivers can get those lights repaired at no cost to them. Also, the number of vehicles on the road with improperly working lights is a public safety concern. Those lights, outlined in ORS 816.010 through ORS 816.370 include headlights, auxiliary lights, passing lights, taillights, registration plate lights, brake lights, back up lights, turn signals, parking lights, cowl/fender lights, high beams, “Liddy” lights and reflectors. This non-profit is titled “CNBSeen”.  We have applied for and received federal 501c3 non profit status. We are also registered with the state of Oregon as a domestic non profit organization.

This non profit was first established in Oregon on July 30, 2016.

Initially, we seek to focus the efforts of this non-profit on neighborhoods with the highest number of vehicle related stops by police. Those also tend to be the neighborhoods with the highest percentages of African Americans.  Ideally, as the percentage of African Americans in a neighborhood falls, so does its likelihood as a CNBSeen event neighborhood, until a neighborhood reaches parity as in, when the number of vehicle stops by police in that neighborhood equals the city wide average of vehicle stops by police.  Although we consider drivers of color in those “high-risk” neighborhoods to be our priority, drivers regardless of race or ethnicity may come to a CNBSeen event to have a non working light replaced since this is also a public safety issue.

Discretionary patrol and traffic related police stops are one of the major causes of individuals being ordered from their vehicles, which in turn leads to searches, arrests and violent or lethal force against those drivers by the police. Also, vehicles with inoperative lights are a public safety concern. Also, drivers so stopped may accumulate financial burden derived from successive court appearances and fines accumulation leading to personal hardship including vehicle seizure and inability to pay other bills.

After drivers of color and drivers in high-risk neighborhoods are pulled over by the police, intervention efforts such as CNBSeen have less chance to de-escalate a potentially bad situation. This is why the program seeks to address issues that draw the attention of the police, reduce vehicle profiling and hopefully, avoid violent or fatal interactions between the police and people in these neighborhoods.


We planned our first event for Saturday, January 9, 2021 in the Humboldt neighborhood. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented violence in Portland streets and an over taxed and understaffed Portland Police Bureau, neighborhoods turned inward for the next 18 months to try to address the problems of their own residents and businesses. That event, the first of an envisioned fifty-two, did not happen.  An event was held in Old Towne/Chinatown in April  2021, for which we were grateful.  Subsequently planned events, however, did not.  A small table event happened at the invitation of Goose Hollow but a bulb changing event didn’t happen until May, 2022, as we must wait for a neighborhood to invite us.  With their knowledge of their people, their geography and their business community, they can lay the groundwork for promotion, business help and volunteers; something we cannot do without them.

Besides foundation grants that CNBSeen may apply for to support the work, funding support for the non-profit could include encouraging users and donors to give according to the PWYW (Pay-What-You-Want) model (though, they are under absolutely no obligation to donate to CNBSeen’s work).

At some point, we want to establish a community education component where drivers, in community spaces, could (1) learn how to replace their own bulbs (if a self-replacement is possible for their vehicle) and (2) receive instruction on the mechanics of a police stop and how to keep the situation from escalating.

The originally, the pilot program for CNBSeen was intended to function for one year. This would’ve let CNBSeen compare police stops data collection (SDC) reports compiled by the Portland Police Bureau twice for the same quarter to see if the number of vehicle lights related stops in that year fell in the most affected neighborhoods/populations. But that timetable has been reset to start with the Richmond event.  If CNBSeen can serve 500 car between 2022 and 2023, it may be extended into another year.

June 9, 2020

Revised April 10, 2021

Revised May 22. 2022

Written by Interviewer

June 9, 2020 at 17:12

Posted in Scratchpad

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