PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Months after announcing a new unit in the Portland Police Bureau dedicated to stopping gun violence, the efforts to get the unit up and running aren't bearing fruit.
After three months of recruiting for the bureau's new Focused Intervention Team, few officers or supervisors have expressed interest.
"There weren't very many people who put in," Lt. Greg Pashley, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, said. "Now what I think the bureau is doing is switching a little bit and try to put in place the supervisors, the leadership of the team. And the supervisors may have some role in recruiting members, talking to people who might be interested."
Pashley said at least one sergeant has expressed interest in leading the new unit, but in conversations with officers, Pashley said he's heard a lot of questions about what the job really entails and who the team will answer to.
"There's a new component. There's this civilian oversight group. ‘Who's on that? What's that all about?’" Pashley said.
Details about that oversight group are hard to come by. According to the city, at least six members of the group have been nominated so far. They had their first meeting in early June, but there is little known about their expectations and what role they might play in officer discipline or direction of the unit.
Pashley said the conversation about policing in Portland over the past year may have made some officers risk averse when it comes to taking on new roles.
"You're talking about putting together a group of people to do a specific job. To go out and patrol in a uniformed function and intervene somehow,” Pashley said. “Get in the middle of people who want to do some shooting or in between people who want to do some shootings and the people who might be their intended victims. That's a dangerous job. You will have watched your predecessors, for lack of a better word, be eliminated after having known them and watched them, some of whom have dedicated the greater part of their career to preventing violence in this city. And having them eliminated right in front of your eyes, and then to join up with a team that's similar to that, I think that would give people pause, too."
Portland City Commissioners voted to eliminate the bureau's Gun Violence Reduction Team in 2020, which roughly corresponded to the recent increase in gun violence.