PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – In light of Saturday morning's mass shooting, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell said they need more resources at the Portland Police Bureau to address the growing gun violence problem in Portland.
"We've lost just over 125 officers, sworn officers, in the last year," Lovell said.
With more Portland police officers expected to retire soon and difficulties recruiting new officers, Lovell said it's going to be tough to prevent gun violence like we've seen recently.
Saturday morning's mass shooting downtown was just one of four shootings in four hours. After two died in two of them, Lovell said those are expected to be the 50th and 51st homicides Portland has seen in 2021.
"I feel like we are under-resourced as a police department and as a city,” he said. “We've had many years of growth as a city and a shrinking police department, frankly. You can only go so long with that trend before you hit a tipping point."
Which is why Wheeler said there needs to be a "five-year plan" to tackle the uptick in gun violence we've seen over the last year. He said more officers will be necessary to accomplish that.
"We do not have the adequate resources deployed on our streets in a proactive way," he said. "I will fight for more police officers."
Though he said his call for more officers doesn't mean they won't still work on police reform efforts in the city.
"That doesn't mean we're going to stop doing the things the public expect us to do to build trust with the community around accountability and transparency, but we need to bring all these pieces together in a way that makes sense for us to particularly address this gun violence issue," he said. "It's not an either/or, it's a both/and."
Wheeler's approach to gun violence for the long term, he said, is three-fold. It starts with intervention and prevention through the focused intervention team - a community approach to preventing gun violence. The second facet is investigative follow through, which he said is being done by the enhanced community safety team.
"I thought Chief Lovell did a terrific job of standing that team up and expanding our investigative capacity for follow up after these incidents take place to make sure each incident gets the attention it deserves," Wheeler said.
The third piece to his plan is community partnership.
"That includes our office of violence prevention working with community partners to work with those who are most impacted by gun violence to try to stop the spread of gun violence," he said. "All of these things need to be brought together simultaneously. You can't just have one of these tools in place and adequately resourced, they all have to work together in tandem to solve this problem in the long term."
In response to last night’s deadly shooting downtown, I’m sending @PortlandPolice officers from @ppbeast and @ppbnorth to provide extra police presence in @PPBCentral tonight. pic.twitter.com/wWUG5vkKmG— Chief Chuck Lovell (@ChiefCLovell) July 18, 2021
Chief Lovell tweeted he would send more officers from the North and East Precincts to provide more police presence downtown Saturday night, so people can feel safe in the Entertainment District.