Wednesday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced that he seeks more than $5 million this fall for police investments, including hiring more officers. This comes after ‘defund the police’ candidates lost in elections across the country this week.
Since August 2020, about 200 officers have left the department. Many in their exit interviews cited low morale, lack of support from city officials, and burnout from months of ‘racial justice protests, which often ended in plumes of tear gas’ before largely dying down last fall.
Additionally, in 2020, Portland slashed the police budget significantly more than $25 million, with $11 million due to the pandemic-caused budget crisis.
In 2021, Portland had more than 1,000 shootings as the police struggled to keep the city safe. The city recently set a record for the most homicides in a year.
The Police Bureau has the lowest authorized force – 916 sworn officers – in 28 years, according to police figures.
It seems the only time Democratic politicians want to help their community is when their job is put in jeopardy.
After the ‘defund the police’ candidates lost in elections across the country this week, Mayor Wheeler has turned a new tune towards his opinion on policing.
Starting in the fiscal year 2023, Wheeler said he wants to increase the police bureau’s staffing numbers by 300 officers – 200 sworn officers and 100 unarmed public safety specialists – over the next three years.
To attract more officers to the force, Wheeler is also proposing $25,000 signing bonuses to the first 50 officers or public safety specialists and looking to hire 25 retired police officers.
A little too late for some, retired Portland Police Deputy Chief Bob Day said Tuesday night that “many people probably ask why anyone would want to become a Portland police officer.” Considering what he characterized as the “wholesale condemnation of law enforcement” in the city the past year.
Day stated, “We need a long-term vision, sustained approach, not just a three-year but five-to-ten-year plans. We really need a long-term, sustained a towards recruiting development.”
The mayor’s spending plan break-down includes;
- $400,000 to rehire 25 recently retired police officers for this year and another 25 next year
- $448,000 to add new “public safety support specialist,” who would be police officers that provide unarmed response to low-level calls,
- $400,000 to hire an independent consultant to review police procedure on crowd controls
- $856,000 to stand up a “basic training academy” in the Portland area to speed up training for new officers,
- $2.65 million for body-worn cameras
Although Wheeler’s statements presented reassurance for the citizens in Portland, there were pushbacks to increase the police presence.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said more officers aren’t the answer.
“People are fearful of law enforcement and what happens when you call” She went on to say that the idea of more police making us safer has “never been true.” Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty conveniently did not specify how she would reduce the surge of violence within the city.
Mayor Wheeler is also facing increasing pressure from People For Portland, an anonymously-funded campaign filled with frustrated Portlanders around calls for more police. The campaign targeted Wheeler and dismissed his plan for 300 new officers as too minor to make a difference.