'Traffic Division' the latest police task force to go
An unsigned e-mail arrived in THE BEE's office shortly after the New Year. It is against our policy to print unsigned letters, but it made a surprising claim that we felt we should verify: "On February 4, 2021, the Portland Police Bureau's Traffic Division will cease to exist."
The message further stated:
"This division has been an integral part of neighborhood communities, tasked with specific duties of traffic enforcement, speed racing, serious injury collision investigation, school zone speed enforcement, fatal collision investigations, DUII enforcement, traffic complaints and major traffic crime investigations.
"There will no longer be any officers dedicated to enforcing any traffic offenses. These violations will be allowed to take place and only until a serious bodily injury or death occurs will an officer be assigned to investigate. Proactive police work that limits the occurrence of these serious injuries will no longer transpire."
It also pointed out that the Traffic Division provides traffic control services for many community events including parades – such as the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, and the Moreland Monster March – or serving at demonstrations, dignitary motorcades – and sponsored "runs", "walks" and bicycle events.
Further, the letter asserted that 2020 public records show 58 traffic-related fatalities, more than 550 DUII arrests, and 4,827 Speeding Tickets – with 231 them issued from January through March 2020 in school zones – which suggests that Portland's streets still do need monitoring.
We contacted the Portland Police Bureau's Public Information Unit, asking if all of this was factual.
"It's true that all of the officers currently assigned to the Traffic Division for road safety enforcement are being reassigned to Precinct Patrol," confirmed Portland Police Public Information Officer Sergeant Kevin Allen.
"However, it is not true that the Traffic Division will cease to exist, completely," Allen told THE BEE. "Portland Police will still have a Traffic Investigation Unit, including our full-time crash reconstructionists, and sergeants to coordinate the Major Crash Team, federal grants, special events, and other duties.
"Community members will still see motorcycle officers out on specific missions, funded by grants – and in some cases they may be doing traffic safety enforcement in between other duties.
"But, indeed, the Traffic Division will be very different, as they will no longer be assigned to that mission full time," Allen conceded.
We asked whether providing officers to help out at parades – whenever they're allowed to resume – is still up in the air. "That's a good question," Allen acknowledged. "A lot of what will take place still being worked out; so, once those events start to happen, we will have to evaluate what we can realistically do.
"The plan is always subject to change, based on the needs of our community, staffing, and future funding," Allen concluded. Nonetheless, please do drive safely, even if you're not being watched.
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