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Portland Disbanded Police Gun Violence Unit On July 1, Finished Month With Most Homicides In 30+ Years
PORTLAND, OR - AUGUST 1: Portland police officers pursue a crowd of about 200 protesters after dispersing the group from in front of the Multnomah County Sheriffs Office on August. 1, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Protest actions spread to East Portland on Saturday as federal officers began a phased withdrawal from the more centrally located U.S. courthouse.
Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Portland Democrat Mayor Ted Wheeler announced in June that he was authorizing radical changes to how policing was done in his city, including disbanding the city’s gun violence reduction team. Now the city is grappling with a surge in violent crime.

“Portland police are scrambling to respond to 15 homicides in the city so far in July. That’s the most killings in one month in more than three decades,” The Oregonian reported. “So far this year, 24 people have died in homicides in Portland.”

While the city has been in the national spotlight for violent riots that have occurred for over two months, the newspaper noted that overall person-to-person and property crimes were down compared to past years, but added that “homicides, assaults, burglaries and vandalism are up.”

The Oregonian added that the city had seen a total of 63 shootings in July compared to 28 the year before. Police Chief Chuck Lovell noted late last week that “the bureau was forced to cut its Gun Violence Reduction Team at the direction of the City Council.”

When Wheeler announced last month that he was enacting numerous police reforms, he said that he was “hearing loudly and clearly from demonstrators that they want fundamental reform.”

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell blasted the move during an interview on a podcast, saying that disbanding the unit was going to hurt how the department could investigate shootings.

“The loss of the gun violence reduction team, in particular, has a diminishing effect on how we’re able to investigate shootings, which is some of the most important crimes that we investigate,” Lovell said. “So we still have to do that work and figuring out how we’re going to do that without the experience that that team had has been a bit of a challenge.”

Disbanding the gun violence unit was just one of 19 things that Wheeler announced were part of his new “Action Plan To Increase Police Accountability And Reinvest In Black And Brown Communities’:

  1. Redirect over $7 million from Police Bureau and $5 million from other City funds to communities of color.
  2. Call on criminal justice system partners to match the City commitment and reinvest in communities of color.
  3. Call for a community-led review and re-envisioning of core patrol services, convened by the Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing.
  4. Hire a third party to review recruitment and retention strategies to ensure that the City’s workforce reflects the communities it serves.
  5. Support outreach and non-law enforcement responses like the Portland Street Response pilot and the Navigation Team.
  6. Advocate for greater access to community-based behavioral health and harm-reduction services located in communities of color.
  7. Decline renewal of Intergovernmental Agreement with TriMet, dissolving the PPB Transit Division and putting transit officers back on patrol.
  8. Dissolve Gun Violence Reduction Team and fundamentally re-shape our approach to reduce gun violence in collaboration with the Office of Youth Violence Prevention, District Attorney-elect, and other partners.
  9. Remove police officers from schools, dissolving Youth Services Division and School Resource Officer program.
  10. Immediately return Equity & Inclusion office to the Chief’s Office, with a direct report to the Chief of Police, and position that work alongside the Community Services Division.
  11. Require explicit Council authorization for acquisition of military equipment, consistent with Executive Order 13688 issued by President Barack Obama in May 2015.
  12. Create local legislation enshrining the Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing in Portland City Code, making it a permanent community oversight body.
  13. Create local legislation for reforms to the use of consent searches in traffic stops
  14. Ban carotid constraints, including chokeholds, as methods of control, and direct Chief of Police to revise the use of force policy to reflect this change.
  15. Create local racial profiling ban with private right of action for intentional discrimination by law enforcement.
  16. Support Oregon Legislative People of Color Caucus call for a special session to take up urgently needed reform legislation.
  17. Support Oregon Legislative People of Color Caucus in pursuit of legislation requiring Oregon Attorney General to investigate officer-involved deaths or serious injuries of civilians.
  18. Support Oregon Legislative People of Color Caucus in pursuit of legislation ensuring integrity of local discipline actions by prohibiting arbitrators from overturning disciplinary decisions against officers if the law enforcement agency and arbitrator both agree that misconduct occurred.
  19. Support reform of Federal qualified immunity doctrine.

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