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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Portland is adding money to police departments among US cities

by Sarah Cline

PORTLAND, Ore (AP) – Hundreds of people marched the streets of Oregon’s largest city night after night to demand racial justice following the killing of George Floyd by a white officer.

Among those crying out at the rally was “police defiance” – a call for elected officials to reallocate some law enforcement funding elsewhere. In June 2020, Portland City Council and the mayor responded by cutting millions from the police budget.

Now a year and a half later, the authorities have partially restored the cut fund. On Wednesday, Portland City Council unanimously passed a fall budget bump that included increasing the existing $230 million police budget by an additional $5.2 million. The extra police spending comes amid a record number of killings in a single year, the city’s biggest police staff shortage in decades, and reform recommendations made by the US Department of Justice.

“Many Portlanders no longer feel safe,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler. “And it is our duty, as leaders of this city, to take action and deliver better results within our crisis response system.”

Portland isn’t the only liberal city that has come face-to-face over police spending. From New York City to Los Angeles—cities where there were some of the biggest Black Lives Matter protests, and some with extensive histories of police brutality—police departments are restoring their finances partly in response to rising homicides, a Officer exodus and political pressure

In recent mayoral elections, some of the winning candidates have pledged to strengthen the public safety budget. In Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, voters rejected a proposal to replace the police department with a new public security department.

Although the three-word call to action was the jumping-off point for communities to talk about how they wanted to polish, experts say the goals of “defund the police” are debatable. For some it means dismantling police departments, for others it is about cutting law enforcement budgets and for others it is about reform and accountability.

“The Police-K movement provided an opportunity for historically disadvantaged and historically under-resourced communities to express their continued dissatisfaction with policing,” said Howard Henderson, director of the Center for Justice Research at Texas Southern University.

For months starting in late May 2020, Portland – one of America’s whitest cities – was hit by almost nightly Black Lives Matter protests. At the time, officers including Wheeler were criticized for what many described as an overly aggressive police force.

During the height of the protests, officials reported more than 6,000 uses of force. The US Justice Department reprimanded the bureau for its “unusually high” reliance on violent tactics.

The Portland Police has a history of being combative. In 2014, the city and the Justice Department reached a settlement agreement after a federal investigation found that Portland officials used excessive force against people with mental illness. Some of the police spending passed Wednesday — including $2.7 million for body-worn cameras and hiring staff to assess the police department’s crowd control strategy — was to meet the Justice Department’s reform needs. were built for.

During last year’s protests, Portlanders called for a $50 million cut from the department’s budget, with money going to community-driven initiatives.

The city council responded by deducting $15 million. An additional $12 million was cut due to the economic crunch caused by the pandemic. As a result, school resource officers, transit police and a gun violence reduction team – which, according to an audit in March 2018, were found to disproportionately target black Portland residents during traffic stops – were disbanded. Was.

Similar action was taken at other places also.

In the wake of the protests, the Los Angeles City Council cut $150 million from the police budget, promising to channel that money into other social services. Similarly, lawmakers in New York City approved a $1 billion shift from policing to education and social services. The NYPD’s budget at the time was about $6 billion, with several billion dollars more in shared city expenses such as pensions. However, since the deduction, concerns about crime have contributed to nearly $200 million in resettlement funding.

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Henderson says that some of the loudest voices in the “rescue” movement were not the neighborhood people who were most troubled by the crime.

“People who live in these high-crime communities…. don’t want to get rid of the police completely,” Henderson said. “What they want to do is get rid of bad policing,”

In Portland, gun violence has disproportionately affected communities of color. Family members of murder victims and advocates working with youth gang members have questioned the cuts and called for greater police presence, along with increased accountability and social services.

Questions were at the fore in the November election about when and where the police were needed.

In Seattle, the mayoral candidate who wanted to discredit the police faltered. Eric Adams, a former police captain in New York City who has not accepted calls to defame the police, is elected mayor.

In Minneapolis, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo has proposed a $192 million budget for 2022 that would restore funding from before Floyd’s death. The proposed budget, which will be voted on in December, includes money to replace the nearly 300 people who lost their jobs since last year.

Similarly, the police department in Portland has 128 officers less than the authorized strength. Additional police spending includes signing bonuses for new officers, funding a retiree-retire program and recruiting with the goal of hiring 200 additional sworn officers and 100 unarmed community security officers by 2024 – which some have. Advocates see a meaningful reform as a victory and a compromise. To defame the police.

Based on FBI data, homicides nationally increased by about 30% from 2019 to 2020. However, in Portland, deadly violence has increased at a faster rate than in almost all major cities, with homicides increasing by 83% in 2020.

criminologist Aaron Shelfin of the University of Pennsylvania, who studied four decades of police budgets in major cities, says that 54% of the time cities hired more officers, the number of homicides decreased. Many factors are involved in the fluctuation of crime rates, including the number of officers and the budget of the police department. Other factors include the financial and mental health struggles caused by the pandemic, the economy, programs for young people, and even the amount of street lighting.

“There are a million things that drive crime up and down,” said Shelphin.

Across the country, officers have used the “Defy the Police” movement to discuss policing options.

In Portland, this paved the way for City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty—the first black woman elected to city council and the principal architect of police reform plans—to create the Portland Street Response. Unarmed policing options – which include a paramedic, a mental health crisis responder and peer support specialist – answer non-emergency calls for people facing a crisis.

Henderson said that because of “police defiance”, a valuable national conversation had begun.

“At the end of the day was it the best phrase? Maybe it was? Maybe it wasn’t?” Henderson said. “But at least we’re talking about it.”


Sarah Kline is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on secret issues.

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