Portland police budget strives to maintain patrols
As shootings continue to surge in Portland, many residents are likely confused about what the Portland City Council is doing to stop them. The Portland Police Bureau is the only agency whose funding is significantly cut in the $5.7 billion budget for the next fiscal year that the council adopted on Wednesday, June 9.
But Mayor Ted Wheeler has said that Portlanders will not see fewer officers on their streets after the budget takes effect on July 1, even though it has been widely reported that an unprecedented number of the existing officers are resigning or retiring early. That includes 22 in January and several more in the following months. And about 23 additional officers have applied for jobs at other agencies, according to the bureau.
The current bureau budget includes 916 authorized positions, of which only 814 are filled. There are 630 authorized officer-rank positions, of which only 560 are filled. Although the budget that take effect on July 1 includes $5.264 million to hire 30 more officers, it takes 18 months to train them before they can begin working.
But Portland budget officials say the council and bureau have taken numerous steps to increase patrols while preparing to offset those officers who are leaving. The council also has funded a multi-pronged effort to prevent future shootings. It includes supporting community-based organizations that counsel victims and their families, funding more outreach workers in an effort to prevent retaliatory violence, and creating a new uniformed unit within the bureau advised by a citizen group to prevent racial profiling.
These efforts have not come without a cost, however. The next bureau budget is $3 million less than the current one. To increase patrol levels, the bureau underwent a reorganization several months ago that reduced staffing of specialty units and moved those officers to patrol.
Among the changes already made, 20 traffic officers, nine K9 officers, seven narcotics and organized crime officers, five public information and community engagement officers, and one behavioral health officer have all been shifted to patrol duties. That helped increase the number of patrol officers from 290 to 360 by last February.
There also are a number of probationary officers who are expected to finish their training and who will be available to take calls during the first half of the next fiscal year. The bureau also expects to triple the number of unarmed Community Service Officers who can be hired more quickly to reduce the workload on armed officers.
All of this is expected to allow the bureau to maintain patrol levels during the coming fiscal year. Then, when the future resignations and retirements are expected to create personnel shortages in the following 2022-23 fiscal year, the 30 new officers will be available to fill in halfway through.
Meanwhile, the council has authorized the bureau to create a uniformed Focused Intervention Team of 12 officers and two sergeants to investigate and hopefully, head off shootings. Such work previously had been done by the Gun Violence Reduction Team, but the council abolished it during social justice protests in 2020 because it had repeatedly been accused of racial profiling.
A recently appointed Community Oversight Group is expected to analyze and track the new team's stops and arrests. As first reported by The Oregonian, few officers have volunteered for it so far, however.
The council also approved a pair of last-minute amendments. One, introduced by Wheeler, allocated $8.4 million for pay and merit raises for non-union city employees. The other, introduced by Commission Jo Ann Hardesty, added $450,000 to the Portland Bureau of Transportation's budget for safety improvements on high-crash corridors. Hardesty, who is in charge of the bureau, said the funds were a response to a "crisis of vehicular violence." According to her office, there had been 25 traffic-related deaths by last Wednesday, a 47% increase from the same time last year.
The council had been scheduled to adopt the budget on Thursday, June 17, but added an emergency clause to finalize the approval instead.
Among significant approporiations include:
• $5.7 million for litter collection and other cleanup efforts, including $3.4 million for graffiti removal.
• $2 million to help develop new homeless shelters with Multnomah County.
• $700,000 for minority chambers of commerce.
• $500,000 for small businesses vandalized or damaged during protests to cover cost of repairs.
• $300,000 to provide $20 an hour jobs to people experiencing homeless to assist with citywide cleanup.
• $269,000 to help relocate struggling food cart vendors displaced by the construction of a Ritz-Carlton hotel downtown to Ankeny Square in the North Park Blocks.
• $250,000 for services to help transgender people facing housing insecurity.
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