Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said Thursday, Feb. 4, that a plan is being worked on to combat gun violence in the city as the bureau grapples with a spike in shootings.
Speaking to reporters, Lovell said there have been "conversations for the last several weeks of what we could do as a police bureau to address shootings." Lovell said the bureau has been talking with regional partners as well.
"Probably something soon in place, but it's definitely an ongoing and regular discussion trying to figure out what the best way is, and what resources to bring to bear," Lovell said. He said he is focused on making a plan that is efficient, effective and sustainable.
There have been more than 100 shootings, six fatalities and 30 nonfatal injuries so far this year.
Lovell also said he regrets the City Council getting rid of the Gun Violence Reduction Team in mid-2020 under criticism it targeted Black men. Lovell said he believes it helped prevent shootings.
"GVRT, as it was, would be helping us keep these numbers lower. We had a focus and a structure," the chief said. "I think that is probably the most important thing to look at and think of. We had a structure that took us a couple of years to build."
Mayor Ted Wheeler made it clear the GVRT is not coming back, but Lovell said talks are underway.
Lovell said the bureau is "doing great work around equity and inclusion" including new trainings. He said they are trying to focus on bringing those conversations to the police bureau.
Lovell spoke on the same day the police bureau reassigned 99 officers and sergeants to its three precincts to reduce overtime costs.
The reassignments are part of a bureau-wide reorganization announced in December intended to reduce significant overtime costs associated with staffing the minimum number of officers daily on patrol shifts. It is not related to steps the bureau is taking to reduce the surge in gun violence that began last year.
Before this reorganization, every shift at every precinct typically has to hire officers on overtime to reach this minimum number, which varies by precinct and shift. The reorganization is being undertaken because the bureau has its lowest number of sworn employees in over 25 years, just 824 sworn members. Overtime soared last year during months of political protests.
Here is a summary of positions being moved to patrol:
• 48 officers who had been assigned to the Rapid Response Team (RRT) full time
• 3 RRT sergeants
• 18 traffic division officers
• 2 traffic division sergeants
• 7 K9 officers
• 1 K9 sergeant
• 6 transit officers (transferred in January)
• 6 narcotics and organized crime officers
• 1 narcotics and organized crime sergeant
• 3 community engagement officers
• 1 community engagement sergeant
• 2 public Information officers
• 1 behavioral health unit officer
According to the bureau, 38 sworn members either retired or resigned from the bureau in January. A total of 110 members have left the bureau's employment since July 1, 2020, including 37 resignations and 73 retirements.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune and contributed to this story. Their story can be found here.
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