Months After Gutting Police Budget, Portland Mayor Asks For $2 Million To Stop Surging Murder Rate

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Democratic Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler submitted a request to the Portland City Council on Thursday for a one-time $2 million expenditure for police, months after the council voted to cut nearly $16 million from the police bureau’s budget.

Wheeler, who previously advocated for the Portland Police Bureau’s budget to be cut, cited a dangerous surge in gun violence throughout the city as the primary reason for requesting the funds, according to the Oregonian.

Portland has seen a total of 20 homicides and 208 shootings so far in the 2021 calendar year. In comparison, 2020 saw only a single homicide during the same period, despite the year ending with a 26 year high in overall homicides, according to the Oregonian.

The mayor’s decision to partially defund the police and disband the Portland Police Bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team was in response to protests for racial justice after the death of George Floyd. The recent rise in violence prompted criticism of the cuts from local community groups as well as faith leaders.

“The cutbacks created a vacuum that undermined public safety and the very communities whose voices the Council — and our community — seek to amplify,” wrote J. W. Matt Hennessee, chair of the Inter-Faith Peace & Action Collaborative, in a letter obtained by the Oregonian.

“There is just too much blood on the streets. We have got to be determined, we have got to be fed up about (the violence) and to want to do something about it. I see this issue in front of us as an opportunity to come together,” said Pastor Ed Williams in a statement to KATU2.

Wheeler said he favored a plan proposed by Police Chief Chuck Lovell that called for a team of two sergeants and 12 officers to be established in order to address the growing gun violence. A “community oversight board” comprised of independent citizens would be tasked with analyzing the new team’s arrests and stops, according to the Oregonian.

If the city council approves Wheeler’s request, the money would likely come from the city’s $6.3 million contingency reserve account, according to the Oregonian.

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