The mayor of Portland, Oregon, is asking the city council to inject more than $5 million in new investment into the city’s police force. The move comes about a year after “defund the police” protests led the city to slash its police budget.
Mayor Ted Wheeler made the announcement at a press conference Wednesday. “Many Portlanders no longer feel safe in their city,” Wheeler said. “Business owners have closed up shop for fear of doing business in high risk areas. Commuters fear for their safety, whether taking public transport or going by foot. Parents are scared to let their children play outside.”
Among the investments Wheeler wants are body cams for officers, and more officers added to the force overall.
According to Fox News, the Portland Police Department’s number of officers is about 130 below its authorized level. Since August 2020, around 200 officers have left the department. In their exit interviews, according to Fox News, officers cited, notably, burnout from the months of violent protests and a lack of support, even outright denigration, from city officials, including the mayor himself. The Daily Wire reported in June that the entire Portland Police “crowd control unit” resigned from their assignment just one day after an Oregon grand jury indicted an officer for allegedly using “unlawful” force against a protester during the violent riots that took place in the summer of 2020.
Portland Police Association executive director Daryl Turner blamed the unit’s resignation, and the record number of police resignations overall, on city officials whose “political venom demonized these public servants for doing exactly what they were tasked to do—restore peace and order in our City.”
The reduction in police presence has led to a record spike in violence. The city experienced its most violent year on record, with 72 homicides recorded, surpassing its previous annual record of 66, recorded in 1987. The city saw an 83% increase in homicides in 2020, according to Fox News. In response, local businesses have begun hiring armed private security details to patrol the city’s downtown to keep the peace, as reported by The Daily Wire.
Wheeler’s goal, starting in fiscal year 2023, is to increase the number of officers in the department by 300 over the next three years, including 200 more officers and 100 unarmed “public safety specialists.” To do this, Wheeler is proposing $25,000 signing bonuses to the first 50 officers or specialists who sign on. He also plans to hire back some 25 officers who retired.
“Our police bureau staffing levels are at record lows and based on projected retirements, staffing levels will continue [to decrease] unless we take decisive action now,” Wheeler said.
The move also comes as cities around the country defeated “defund the police” campaigns. Voters in Minneapolis struck down a measure that would have replaced the city’s police department with a “department of public safety,” 56% to 44%. The city of New York also elected former NYPD officer Eric Adams, who promised to maintain the city’s police force while seeking reform. Seattle also elected a Republican city attorney, defeating an opponent whom the Seattle Times described as a “police abolitionist.”