Council cuts Portland police by $27 million
The City Council passed a budget Wednesday cutting $27 million out of the Portland Police Bureau — including $15 million from four controversial tactical units that were eliminated.
The vote was 3 to 1, with Commissioner Chloe Eudaly saying more should have been cut from the bureau and voting no. Anti-police violence protesters had been demanding the bureau be cut $50 million.
But Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, the only African American on the council, strongly defended the $27 million cut as historic and criticized the $50 million figure as based on no analysis of the city's actual public safety needs.
"Never in my life would I have imagined that we or any government would be able to cut that much significant resources out of a police budget," Hardesty said.
She also said passing the budget was just the beginning of the reforms to be made to the bureau in direct response to the large daily protests sparked by the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
Mayor Ted Wheeler agreed with Hardesty and said he had deferred to her on the police budget because of her lived experiences as a black woman in Portland and three decades of activism on police issues.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz also praised Hardesty for her leadership on police issues.
The budget takes effect on July 1. The cuts include:
• Abolishing the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which has long been accused of racial profiling and arresting a disproportionate number of black Portland residents. Thirty-eight associated positions will be eliminated, saving around $5.4 million.
• Abolishing the Youth Services Division, which provides School Resource Officers to the three school districts in Portland. They have been accused of unfairly treating black students harsher than other students. Fourteen associated positions will be eliminated, saving about $1.9 million.
• Pulling all Portland officers and supervisors out of TriMet's Transit Police Division, which has been accused of enforcing the regional transit agency's rules harder against people of color. Twenty-four associated positions will be eliminated by the end of the year, saving $4.4 million.
• Abolishing the Special Emergency Response Team, the bureau's SWAT team, which has been involved in several high-profile black deaths. This last-minute cut will eliminate eight positions and save $1.1 million. The police promised to still respond to emergencies requiring backup, however.
Other cuts also were needed to help offset a $75 million budget gap caused by revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Altogether, they totaled $27 million for the police bureau alone. It was not immediately clear how many officers will be laid off or shifted to other positions. And Wheeler promised police will continue investigating all shootings and responding to 911 calls for help at schools and transit system properties.
TriMet now is considering whether and how to continue the Transit Police with the 13 other law enforcement agencies in the region.
As part of the overhaul, some of the bureau savings are dedicated to programs advocated by Hardesty and Wheeler.
The Portland Street Response program will receive $4.8 million from the GVRT budget. The program pairs a Portland Fire & Rescue emergency medical technician and a mental health professional to respond to 911 calls that do not require the police. The pilot project scheduled to start earlier this year in Lents was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, however.
About half the budget for school resource officers — $1 million — will go to creating a leadership program centered on black residents age 25 and younger. And $1 million of the SERT budget will be dedicated to homeless services.
Newly appointed Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell has promised to implement whatever changes the council approves, saying, "The men and women of the police bureau are part of this community and are here to be part of the solution."
Lovell was appointed to replace Chief Jami Resch, who stepped down to clear the way for him after weeks of protests.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.