John Sexton at Hot Hair, Portland wants to walk back defunding the police but officers don't want the jobs. Would you trust them?
Last June Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is also the police commissioner, decided to put an end to the Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) as part of an effort to reimagine policing. The $6 million that would have gone to the team was redirected ” toward communities of color.” Even at the time the assistant chief of police warned their could be serious consequences.According to Assistant Police Chief Andy Shearer, who oversees the team, the GVRT tracks all shootings in the city (homicides, suicides, robberies, domestic violence, etc.)…Daryl Turner, the head of Portland’s Police Union issued a similar warning. “That is going to cripple us in our ability to be able to stop violence in the streets of the city of Portland,” he said.
“There’s been cities in the recent past, two in California that I’m thinking of, that both had to reduce their staffing sizes and did away with their gun violence reduction units. Both agencies saw record numbers of homicides in the year immediately following that. And one of those cities even set a new record the second year after they did away with that team … The partnership between the community outreach and then data-driven, very deliberate law enforcement efforts are critical in addressing this type of gun violence,” Chief Shearer said.
After the GVRT was cut, the number of shootings and murders in Portland skyrocketed. Last September there were 110 shootings in Portland, a 243% jump compared to a year earlier. At the end of the year, Portland had more than 900 shootings, double the previous year.
The spike in violence continued into 2021. In the first two months of this year Portland had 17 homicides compared to just one the previous year. The city is currently on track to have the highest number of murders ever recorded, going all the way back to a record set in the late 1980s.
In January, Mayor Wheeler was arguing that even if the GVRT was still in place the surge in violent crime would have happened anyway. But at some point, Mayor Wheeler seems to have changed his mind. In early March he announced he was seeking funding for a new GVRT albeit with a different name and some new oversight.If approved, the city would restore nearly all of the functions – though not the name – of the city’s Gun Violence Reduction Team, a program that was disbanded in 2020 in response to longtime community demands.How is the plan to get the band back together going? Today the Wall Street Journal reports that Portland can’t find officers willing to take positions on the new Focused Initiative Team. A total of 14 opening were announced in May. More than two months later, there have been only four applicants:
“We are not bringing it back,” Wheeler said. “To be clear, the part about GVRT that was objected to by many members of the community was that there wasn’t community oversight. There wasn’t clarity in terms of what the engagement was. There wasn’t the collection and the transparent dissemination of data.”
The new plan would create an independent watchdog to oversee the new program that will bring back many of GVRT’s functions.
Sometime, if you're really unlucky, you get what you vote for, good and hard.