October 29, 2020 12:40
A budget amendment presented to the City Council proposes to cut an additional $18 million from the Portland Police Bureau's budget. I believe these cuts will be detrimental to the safety of our community members and visitors to the City of Portland and dramatically impact the livability of our neighborhoods. The PPB welcomes ongoing, thoughtful, evidence-based reforms and would like to be a part of these discussions. Once appropriate structures are in place, we completely agree that there are situations where police response may not be the best way to serve the community. I look forward to participating in the ongoing conversation about the best ways to provide public safety.
Council reduced the Police Bureau's budget by $26 million this spring. An additional cut of $18 million would require significant layoffs and affect the Police Bureau's ability to respond to 911 calls. These layoffs would directly impact the most junior members of the organization, who have been successfully recruited as the most diverse hires in the history of the organization, as well as numerous professional non-sworn staff.
The Bureau would have to eliminate programs that provide necessary services which have been developed through years of collaboration with professional partners and input from the community. These include the:
* Behavioral Health Unit and Service Coordination Team works proactively with people with mental illness and multiple or high risk contacts with police. They also provide a gateway to services that help people find housing, get sober, seek work and get out of the criminal justice system.
* Community Engagement Unit builds relationships with the community, particularly people of color, to establish trust and build mutual understanding with the goal of reducing violence and police enforcement action.
* Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit disrupts and dismantles high-level drug trafficking organizations. It also follows up on opioid deaths and investigates illegal drugs affecting neighborhood livability.
* Air Support Unit supports police services by air which helps patrol officers apprehend suspects in a safe and effective manner.
* Traffic Division investigates traffic fatalities and attempts to reduce crashes through traffic law enforcement.
* Emergency Management Unit plans for city-wide responses to emergencies, including natural disasters.
* Neighborhood Response Teams assist neighbors with community livability matters and reduce the need for continued police response to issues that can be addressed in other ways.
* Criminal Intelligence Unit provides investigative support for cases involving threats to commit acts of mass and/or targeted violence, violent extremism, domestic and international terrorism, organized crime, and special investigative projects. Additionally, CIU conducts investigative threat assessments for major events, dignitary visits, and investigates threats to businesses, community groups, critical infrastructure, and individuals -- including stalking behaviors -- for members of the public, public officials and other high-profile people.
* K9 Unit uses highly trained canines to provide support to safely apprehend wanted suspects, which lowers risk to the community and to officers.
In addition, the proposed budget reductions also will reduce training and diversity initiatives, increase response times, slow investigations, and challenge the Police Bureau's ability to meet our community's expectations and needs.
The Department of Justice, in the 2012 Settlement Agreement with the City, said the Police Bureau was a "lean organization." We have fewer officers now and a population which has grown dramatically. The DOJ agreement also said, "The City shall be responsible for providing necessary support and resources to enable the Portland Police Bureau to fulfill its obligations under this Agreement. The improvements outlined in this Agreement will require the dedication of additional funds and personnel."
I support thoroughly researched, data-driven proposals to improve public safety. This is a conversation worth having, but not a conversation worth rushing. I hope we take the time needed to ensure that any decisions result in the public safety outcomes we all seek.
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