Disbanding Gun Violence Reduction team blamed for spike in shootings
The president of the Portland Police Association believes a bad policy decision by the City Council is to blame for a record-breaking rash of shootings over the past three months in the Rose City.
Data from the Portland Police Bureau shows 341 shootings were recorded in Portland from the start of July through the end of September. There already have been 12 confirmed shootings just over a week into October, three of which were deadly. In comparison, the city saw 393 shootings during the entire year of 2019.
Daryl Turner, the president of the Portland police union, believes the startling spike is the result of the council's decision to dissolve the PPB's Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) in June.
In the midst of nationwide protests for racial justice after the death of George Floyd, the GVRT came under fire for allegedly targeting members of the Black community.
City councilors decided to cut the GVRT, along with $15 million from the PPB's budget for the next fiscal year. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty worked to win support for getting rid of the GVRT, school resource officers, transit police and eight SERT officers.
"For any commissioner — any elected officials who's not a subject-matter expert, who's never even been trained in police tactics or studied police tactics or even went through a citizens' academy to learn something about police tactics — for them to be able to weigh in and say they were race profiling, they were biased in their proactive policing, is wrong and we can see the results of that," Turner said.
Hardesty has said shootings are increasing in cities across the country for a variety of reasons, and disbanding the GVRT did not cause the spike in Portland shootings.
The council directed some of the savings to fund a Portland Rapid Street Response program that would pair an emergency medical technician and a mental health worker to respond to incidents that do not required an armed police officer. The start of the program has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however.
A little more than a month after the GVRT was defunded, Mayor Ted Wheeler said he planned to put together a new team to combat gun violence in the city.
Turner said the GVRT was renowned nationwide and police departments across the country came to Portland to study the team. He said the GVRT's considerably low numbers when it came to use of force were of particular interest to other police departments, who hoped to mirror the team's success.
KOIN News 6 is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story can be found here. Reporter Jim Redden contributed to this story.
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