Council poised to cut four units, $27M from Portland police
The City Council is poised to cut the Portland Police Bureau budget by $27 million and to eliminate 84 positions.
After two days of heated public testimony condemning police violence in Portland and around the world, the majority of the council voted on Thursday, June 11, to abolish four controversial units within the bureau: School Resource Officers, the Special Emergency Response Team, the officers assigned to TriMet's Transit Police Division, and the Gun Violence Reduction Team, originally known as the Gang Enforcement Team.
Only Commissioner Chloe Eudaly indicated she will vote against the amended budget, saying the cuts to the bureau budget don't go far enough. That forced the council to delay the final decision one week when a unanimous vote will not be required.
Many of those who testified demanded the budget be cut by $50 million. Eudaly proposed an amendment that would have saved $5 million by eliminating 50 unfunded positions in the bureau, which the rest of the council did not support.
The cuts were in direct response to ongoing protesters over police violence sparked by the death of African American George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police. Several of those who testified promised the protests will continue if the council did not make the full $50 million cut and redistribute the money to the community.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty introduced the amendments to cut the four units, arguing they disproportionately impact communities of color, especially Portland's African American community. She said disbanding those units was long overdue.
One of the amendments would transfer nearly $5 million from the Gun Violence Reduction Team to the new Rapid Street Response program championed by Hardesty. It will pair a Portland Fire & Rescue emergency medical technician with a mental health professional to respond to some 911 calls now being handled by the police. The pilot project in the Lents Neighborhood was put on hold earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newly appointed Police Chief Chuck Lovell testified that he would implement whatever changes to the bureau the council approves. It was not immediately clear how many bureau employees will lose their jobs if they cannot be assigned to other duties.
In related news, the council also postponed the second scheduled hearing on the Residential Infill Project, initially set for this week, until Thursday, June 18.
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