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Staffing protests has led to skimpy police patrols; he links loss of gun team to a surge of homicides in July.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Chief Chuck Lovell addressed reporters in Waterfront Park near the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge on Wednesday, saying that nightly clashes between agitators and police have sapped the number of officers on patrol and contributed to  911 response delays. He said the lack of patrol cops, coupled with the disbanding of a specialty unit focused on gun violence, contributed to a surge in homicides in July.

On Wednesday, Aug. 5, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell drew the strongest connection his department has yet between the nightly clashes following protests and weakened police response to 911 calls around the city.

Add in the City Council's decision to disband the Gun Violence Reduction Team, he said, and you have a situation that has helped fuel a historic surge of shootings and murders in July.

"It's a drain on resources," he said of late-night efforts to provoke police through violence or arson. "We have people who are ... dedicated to just provoking a police response. And that response is taking away from our ability to go out and give people the service that they expect."

He cited a rash of 99 verified shootings in July, shootings that led to the wounding of 38 people, of whom 15 were killed.

That's compared to just 35 shootings in July of last year— a nearly three-fold increase.

Asked to explain the increase in shootings Lovell said staffing the protests means some precincts — spanning large portions of the city — have only two or three patrol cars on duty to respond to 911 calls such as shootings.

He also cited the council's recent decision to disband the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which has been criticized for disproportionately focusing its attention on African American residents.

"Knowing that they're no longer there. I think it gives people more … let's say they're more emboldened, maybe to be out with guns," Lovell said of potential shooters. "They know there's not someone watching. There's no real deterrent there. And I think that's part of the issue, causing us to see the spike."

He said the disproportionate numbers of arrests and stops of Black people by the disbanded gun team reflected the realities of what community is most impacted. He pointed to bureau statistics indicating that, of the 38 individuals who were shot in July in the city of Portland, 25 were African American, four were Hispanic and nine were white.

"If you look at the victim side of that, you'll notice Black people are overrepresented heavily on the victim side," Lovell said. "So when you're doing work, that type of work in the community. It's so hard because you are trying to respond to a societal issue … in many ways, and when you do it, and you have those numbers, people label you racist. And it's like that's not the case."

Portland is on pace to surpass last year's total of non-suicide shootings. In all of 2019 there were 388 such shootings for the year. As of Aug. 5 the city has tallied 366 verified non-suicide shootings.


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