PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is pushing to disband the Portland Police Bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team.
This all comes in response to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposed budget.
Wheeler set aside half a million dollars for “Portland Street Response” which is one of Hardesty’s priorities.
But she says other community issues aren’t getting the funding they need and the police force is already stretched thin in Portland.
“I did not come in to just be a kumbaya or just be an additional vote for the mayor's budget,” Hardesty said.
The Gun Violence Reduction Team is formerly known as the Gang Enforcement Team (GET).
In October 2018, the team made the transition to focusing on all gun-related crime, not just ones that are gang-related in Portland.
Chief Danielle Outlaw recently supported the team, noting that shots fired calls are down 28 percent from October 2018 to March 2019.
But Hardesty stresses the team is just not effective and it should be disbanded to not waste taxpayer dollars.
“I think we do a disservice to the community when we pretend that we have this huge gang problem that we do not have,” Hardesty said.
Hardesty said she believes the team is racially profiling.
Through a city audit, Hardesty cites 59 percent of the people stopped by the Gun Violence Reduction Team are African-American in a city she said that’s only 6 percent African-American.
She wants to take those 28 officers within that team and put them back on street patrol.
“They're not good at it. They don't do a good job of actually recording who they stop and why - when the auditor asks them well how do you decide to pull over? 'Oh we just know it when we see it,’” Hardesty said.
But Royal Harris who grew up in Portland’s gang culture has a different opinion.
“I wouldn't say that the idea of disbanding the unit is a good idea and I would pin it as an ideological view of one person against another person, or us against them,” Harris said. “What I would say is it's a tool for law enforcement and with every there's the ability to improve its use.”
Harris said it’s important that the Gun Violence Reduction Team focus on data-driven policing, not stereotypes.
“I don't think gun violence is a color issue or a race issue,” Harris said. “I would hope that whatever position you have the center interest is public safety and that if we focus on that we can probably figure a way maybe not to get rid of them but to improve what they do based on mistakes in the past.”
Hardesty is also proposing to defund $1.6 million for a Portland Police body camera pilot program.
Next Wednesday, the commission will vote on the budget.
Commissioners will have the opportunity to put amendments into the proposed budget.
The final vote is June 12.
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