PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV/CNN) – Major changes happened in Portland over the past few months.
Earlier this year, there were protests calling for cutting funds to the city’s police department. But after a rash of criminal activity in the area, some now want to see a boost in the department’s budget.
Months removed from protests in the streets and calls to defund or even abolish the police bureau, the City of Portland is confronted by the stark reality of a staggering increase in crime and violence, particularly gun violence.
Portland Police Bureau Lieutenant Ken Duilio said, “It’s been pretty painful to watch, being in this line of work, what’s happened since GVRT was defunded. The level of gun violence is at a rate we’ve never seen, ever, in the city of Portland. Historical.”
Acting Lieutenant Ken Duilio is a former member of the police bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team, or GVRT, which, as he mentioned was eliminated by the city council in 2020 during a budget adjustment that stripped the bureau of more than $15 million in funding. Now, with the city living through more than 1,000 shootings this year alone, he’s been tasked to lead a new team dedicated to curbing gun violence: the bureau’s Focused Intervention Team.
Lt. Duilio said, “It feels like the tide is starting to turn a little bit. From kind of the anti-police defundment to, hey, we’ve got to right-size the police department.”
In September, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called on the city council to add money back to the police budget to re-hire officers on the brink of retirement in an effort to keep the chronically short-staffed police bureau afloat.
City Commissioner Mingus Mapps said, “For a city our size, you’d expect us to have about 1,200 cops. Portland is hovering around 700 cops as of today.”
Commissioner Mapps, elected to the city council in November, 2020, supports the mayor’s retire/rehire proposal, and wants to go beyond that.
During the fall budget management process, known as the “fall bump,” Mapps says he’ll propose adding funding for body-worn cameras, expanding the Portland street response program to take on up to five percent of police calls for service, and doubling the size of the bureau’s behavioral health unit, which pairs officers with mental health professionals.
Mapps said, “I was never an advocate for defunding the police. I do think that we need to re-invent the police, and how we go about public safety. We’re going to have to, I think, grow.”
As for Duilio and his Focused Intervention team, they’re scheduled to hit the streets in mid-November. He says recruiting has been difficult, with fellow officers unsure if the team has the support of city leaders. He does think the city can gain ground on its gun violence problem.
“I hope people don’t think, ‘FIT team hits the street. All problems are solved.’ This is going to take years to get back under control, and it’s going to take a serious commitment from the elected officials.”
The Portland City Council will vote on proposed budget revisions on October 28th.