PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – After months of community outcry, Portland city commissioners unanimously approved a nearly $6 million plan to combat the city's dramatic rise in gun violence.
The city says this plan will not add any new funding to the Portland Police Bureau and will instead go to community-based organizations currently working to change the conditions and environments that foster violence.
Here are the main takeaways from the plan:
- According to the city, Mayor Ted Wheeler and the Portland Police Bureau will internally realign resources to gain the patrol, analytic and investigative capacities PPB says it needs to combat gun violence.
- According to the plan, the bureau will immediately add six additional assault investigative detectives and one sergeant to coordinate gun-related investigations working in partnership with the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office.
- The plan will also direct the city's new community safety transition director to lead the development of the gun violence prevention response plans and the community safety plan.
- $1.4 million will be dedicated to expanding the Park Ranger Program to increase patrols and be an unarmed presence of goodwill from May through December 2021.
The city will also invest in a pilot program based on a summer ceasefire strategy policy in Oakland, California.
As the Portland City Council began its discussion on this proposal Wednesday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler had a plea to the city.
"I apologize to Portlanders of color, particularly for black and brown Portland men too often over many decades you have been the victims of an unfair state and local law enforcement system that has mistreated you and even killed you," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said his apology comes with actions.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty echoed that sentiment.
"What we're doing today is starting a pathway towards making sure that we are investing dollars where they will make the most good," Hardesty said. "We're also at the front end of transforming our police department."
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell held a press availability Wednesday afternoon. In it, he said, with short staffing and no new funding, the bureau will have to figure out how to make these internal changes.
"We know this work is important. It's probably some of the most important work we do cause' it really affects people's lives and safety every day. So we have to figure out a way where we can be effective in playing our part and be a good partner," Lovell said. "But I will say it's very difficult to do with limited personnel and limited budget."
FOX 12 also asked Lovell if the realigned resources will add to the current Enhanced Community Safety Team (ECST), which is already on call 24-7 to respond to shootings.
"I think the Enhanced Community Safety Team's probably really more investigatively-focused. I think this new group will probably be really tied into some community oversight and some community interaction," Lovell said. "So they'll be separate, but I think it's possible that some of their work could overlap, and maybe there's a need to shift some resources from one to the other."
Interfaith leaders who've been pushing for immediate action, like Pastor Matt Hennessee, embraced the move by the council.
"There is no problem that will come before us, that together we cannot solve," Hennessee said. And today, I see you being willing to move in that same direction."
Multnomah County Board of Commissioners Chair Deborah Kafoury released a statement following the announcement of the agreement:
“I’m encouraged by this emerging leadership and look forward to working with the Portland City Council to bring an end to the cycle of gun violence harming our community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted people’s senses of connection, stability and security, resulting in the increased rates of violence in their homes and on the street. Community members are tired, they’re traumatized, and undoubtedly they need more support to navigate these immensely difficult times without resorting to harming others or themselves.
At Multnomah County, we recognize that in most cases, community violence shows up downstream when social and behavioral health needs aren’t being met upstream. The County has long focused on decreasing the risk of, and hopefully stopping, community violence before it starts. We will continue to invest in programs like our SUN Schools, adolescent health and social services, and food access for families that, together, provide increased stability and support.
When violence does touch the community, the County supports compassionate and effective interventions. Our Juvenile Community Healing Initiative offers a proven model, grounded in partnership with trusted community-based organizations, that supports both individuals and families in working through trauma and breaking cycles of violence.
And we will continue to listen deeply to what the community tells us they need, and invest in community solutions to build strength and resilience, including new community-based and mobile mental health services and outreach, peer support and culturally specific resources.
Our community has worked hard to limit the spread of COVID-19 and I know that working together, we can make a difference for a safer and strong recovery.”
Portland Public Schools released the following statement:
“PPS is thrilled to continue to partner with The City of Portland, Parks and Recreation and Multnomah County to bring prevention-based solutions to end the cycle of gun violence harming our community.
We are taking a community centered approach in developing plans for summer enrichment programs that engage students in safe, engaging and fun activities. We are partnering with SUN agencies, as well as culturally specific and multiracial organizations who understand the needs of our students and families. We intend to leverage the City and County’s support by investing district resources toward academic and enrichment programs this summer. We look forward to sharing more information and details next week.
Our community has recently demonstrated how effective we can be when we work together—if we can limit the spread of COVID-19 in Portland, we can make a difference in the lives of our young people who are facing unprecedented rates of gun violence in our city right now.”