PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — It’s been a little more than a week since Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell took over as Multnomah County Sheriff, and she says she’s been focused on acclimating to her new role, including attending nearly a dozen roll calls and briefings.
“Being present and connected are two of the areas I know are critically important for this position,” she said. “Being able to support our staff in the work they do every day puts their best foot forward when they’re working with community.”
The community is desperate for change after two back-to-back years of record-breaking violence in Portland, topping out at 96 homicides in 2022 — a majority of which involved gun violence.
“The violence we’re seeing and the gun violence and people not feeling safe in community is extremely concerning to me,” Morrisey O’Donnell said.
The new sheriff said she’s committed to quelling the violence, and critical to that work will be building and maintaining relationships with the Portland Police Bureau and the Gresham Police Department, plus state and federal partners.
“We have to work together to intervene,” Morrisey O’Donnell said. “We’re also working with community groups and organizations because we recognize we need those types of resources to break down those barriers and really talk with community, heal community, and help us develop those community-led solutions to reducing gun violence.”
Another top-of-mind issue for Morrisey O’Donnell is the Portland region’s homeless crisis, which often involves mental illness and addiction. She said she believes the sheriff’s office can be instrumental in getting people off the streets and into homes or recovery.
“Supplementing our public safety services with experts in the field around mental health and addiction is critical,” she said.
The Portland Police Bureau has only recently begun to turn the corner on a long period of staff shortages, but staffing levels at the sheriff’s office are in comparatively good shape, according to Morrisey O’Donnell, down by only two deputies in the law enforcement division.
Even so, she said she wants to prioritize keeping up on staffing needs, including by hosting more recruiting events where staffers can engage directly with people interested in jobs in law enforcement. She said she also wants those job candidates to come from outside the immediate area, and is thinking about ways to recruit nationwide.
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