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Portland PD has only 788 cops – the lowest number since 1989 – amid violent crime surge


Crime-ravaged Portland‘s police department has just 788 sworn cops – the lowest number since 1989, when the city’s population was 35 per cent lower. 

Worrying new official statistics show that the officers must try and police the city’s 662,549 residents, meaning there is just 1.2 cops for every 1,000 people. 

The number of cops has dropped by 146 from the 943 who worked for the department in 2020, and remains down on the 886 who worked there in 2019.  

The last time there were such low numbers was in 1989, when just 742 cops patrolled the city’s streets. But back them, just 430,657 lived in the Oregon city, meaning the department wasn’t as overstretched as it is now.  

The short-staffed department was defunded to the tune of $15 million in June 2020, in the wake of George Floyd‘s murder. 

It has also been hit by a number of laws and measures aimed at reducing its ability to intervene in crime, even as Portland sees murders soar to an all time high. There have been 77 homicides in the city so far this year, far eclipsing the previous record of 67 for the whole of 1987, with six weeks of 2021 still to run. 

There are current 788 sworn members of the Portland Police Bureau, the fewest its seen since 1989 when there were 742 sworn members

The city is also famed for its regular Antifa riots, with the hard-left activists attacking federal buildings and cops while calling for the abolition of police. 

Portland also raised eyebrows after enacting a new law which means people in possession of small quantities of any drug can’t be arrested, including heroin and crystal meth. 

Due to its steep drop in membership, the department says it must prioritize more serious crimes over more common ones like property theft. 

Portland has also witnessed 1,105 shootings this year, with Mayor Ted Wheeler now calling for more cash to be available to increase the size of its police department. 

Portland’s number of officers is in stark contrast with the size of police forces in cities comparable in population

Portland’s number of officers is in stark contrast with the size of police forces in cities comparable in population

The city’s union has called for officer numbers to be doubled, although they’ve also warned it could be years before any planned hires impact current crime levels. 

‘This is anarchy. The city has decided what rules they will and will not impose,’ Laurie Sugahbeare told KOIN 6. She lives near a homeless camp off Interstate 5 in North Portland and said crime is rife, but often left undealt with. 

Sugahbeare is not alone in her concerns. Most residents believe there must be more boots on the ground and 66% said Portland needs more officers, according to a poll from People for Portland. Of those polled, 17% said the city has the right amount of officers and 8% said there should be fewer. 

Portland’s number of officers is in stark contrast with the size of police forces in cities comparable in population. Portland’s 788 police officers mean that it has 1.2 officers per 1,000 people.

Washington D.C. has 3,578 officers or five per 1,000 people, Boston has 2,098 officers or three per 1,000 people, Milwaukee has 1,663 officers or about three per 1,000 people, El Paso has 1,138 officers or just under two per 1,000 people and Seattle has 1,124 officers or 1.45 per 1,000 people, according to data collected from police departments in October.  

Joel Morales, another local resident, is missing his $3,500 electric bicycle and told the news outlet that some of the homeless campers told him they saw someone in the camp steal it.

The short-staffed department has faced calls to be defunded by the ‘woke’ city council and a number of laws aimed at reducing its ability to intervene. Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is a staunch advocate for reducing the number of armed police officers throughout the city

The short-staffed department has faced calls to be defunded by the ‘woke’ city council and a number of laws aimed at reducing its ability to intervene. Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is a staunch advocate for reducing the number of armed police officers throughout the city

‘I still can’t get Portland PD to help me out with this because they’re under-resourced,’ he said. ‘I just make do what I do and I just kind of laugh about it now. What am I going to cry about it, you know? So, just laugh about it.’

A third resident, Dale Hardt, said he feels as though policing has been left up to the residents of Portland. He told KOIN 6, ‘I carry a Smith and Wesson baton that extends outward for a good, quick swing. Now the city, Jo Ann Hardesty, has asked us to step up and enforce the laws ourselves. And I’m here, Jo Ann. I’m ready to defend the laws.’

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is a staunch advocate for reducing the number of armed police officers throughout the city and diverting funds from the department to social services and crisis workers aimed at preventing crime.

She has become a face for the woke movement in the city – despite herself calling 911 on a Lyft driver last year for refusing to wind up the window of his car, sparking allegations of hypocrisy. 

Residents who live near a homeless camp off Interstate 5 in North Portland and said crime is rife, but often left undealt with

Residents who live near a homeless camp off Interstate 5 in North Portland and said crime is rife, but often left undealt with

‘The police have a role, but their role is simply to solve crime. Their role is not to prevent crime, their role is not to intervene in other community activities. A response to gun violence should not be a knee-jerk reaction. As you know, we intentionally cut very specific programs in PPB’s budget during the last budget process because those programs had racially disparate outcomes,’ she said in May.

But even Hardesty has now acknowledged that urgent action is needed. Last month, she reached out to Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell about creating a rehire plan, she told KOIN 6.

‘I’m open. I think if we’re going to rehire former officers, we need to have some criteria,’ she said. ‘[To ensure] that we don’t bring back officers who’ve, who were part of the 6,000 use-of-force complaints from last year, that we don’t bring back officers who retired in lieu of being investigated.’

She added that the city must work on ‘transforming a very dysfunctional bureau’ and said she knows that’s going to take a while. ‘We didn’t create a dysfunctional bureau overnight and it’s not going to be fixed overnight,’ she said.

The decrease in staffing comes as the city sees a record-breaking surge in violent crime skirmishes between extremist groups and ‘anarchist’ riots. Above, Portland police officers officer tackled demonstrators after a riot was declared during a protest against the killing of Daunte Wright on April 12

The decrease in staffing comes as the city sees a record-breaking surge in violent crime skirmishes between extremist groups and ‘anarchist’ riots. Above, Portland police officers officer tackled demonstrators after a riot was declared during a protest against the killing of Daunte Wright on April 12

Above, Portland police responded to a structure fire set by protesters following the police shooting of a homeless man on April 17

Above, Portland police responded to a structure fire set by protesters following the police shooting of a homeless man on April 17

Mayor Ted Wheeler announced last Wednesday that he is seeking an extra $5million for the police department

Mayor Ted Wheeler announced last Wednesday that he is seeking an extra $5million for the police department

Even with a hiring surge, it will take years for the public to see an impact, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said Tuesday during a public safety forum hosted by the Portland Business Alliance titled, ‘Portland at a crossroads: Is crime the new normal?’

New officers must be recruited and trained before they can work on their own, meanwhile a boost in hiring cannot keep up with a ‘retirement cliff’ that Lovell warned is on the horizon, the Oregonian/Oregon Live reported.

Despite Portland’s population continuing to grow over the years, its number of sworn members has mostly been declining over the past two decades. In 1960, Portland had 654 police officers, when the city had 372,000 people. That’s about 300,000 fewer residents than the city has in 2021.

‘The reality is, our police department has been withering on the vine for several years,’ Portland City Commissioner Mingus Mapps told KOIN 6, adding that 40 officers are currently thinking about retiring.

‘If we continue at this rate, a year from now, we could be down to 600 officers. I have no idea how the city of Portland functions with a police bureau that small,’ he added.

Officers who left the department in 2021 cited the city’s softness on crime as a major reason and specifically mentioned Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, according to exit interviews obtained by KOIN 6.

One departing officer wrote, ‘There is little accountability for criminal behavior from the DA’s office’ and another wrote, ‘As long as the other branches of the criminal justice system (district attorney and jail) refuse to hold up their obligations, police officers will continue to be ineffective at making any lasting change.’

A third said she’d be enticed to stay with PPB if there was ‘a DA who prosecutes crimes and prosecutes without bias.’

Portland saw 19 shootings over 54 hours in one weekend last month, which Police Chief Chuck Lovell called 'stunning'

Portland saw 19 shootings over 54 hours in one weekend last month, which Police Chief Chuck Lovell called ‘stunning’

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell took to Twitter on October 25 to plea for an end to the city’s violence ,following a double homicide that saw it break an annual murder record

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell took to Twitter on October 25 to plea for an end to the city’s violence ,following a double homicide that saw it break an annual murder record

‘I think we have to have that conversation of what is the right tool for the job. And, you know, maybe sometimes that’s not a police officer,’ Schmidt told the new outlet and agreed with Hardesty’s approach to diverting police funds to preventative measures.

He said, ‘I think they’re in a really tough spot. You know, I think it’s a challenging moment, because I don’t control the police. They don’t work for me. I don’t have any kind of oversight into them. My job is to look at the law and apply it to conduct. And so that’s what I do in every single case, whether that’s a police officer who potentially has broken a law or whether that’s a person, and that’s the standard that I have to hold myself to.’

Mayor Ted Wheeler announced last Wednesday that he is seeking an extra $5million for the police department. Calls to defund the department reached a fever pitch in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police in May 2020, with the city council defunding its police budget by $15 million just three weeks later.

As a result ‘many Portlanders no longer feel safe in their city,’ the mayor said during a news conference announcing that he’s asking for money to hire more officers and invest in more body cameras.

Last month, Portland was rocked by a violent, 100-person protest last month that caused $500,000 in damage

Last month, Portland was rocked by a violent, 100-person protest last month that caused $500,000 in damage 

Police stood idle as rioters destroyed the city, citing a new law that prevents law enforcement from using means of crowd control like pepper spray, tear gas or incapacitating projectiles

Police stood idle as rioters destroyed the city, citing a new law that prevents law enforcement from using means of crowd control like pepper spray, tear gas or incapacitating projectiles

Violence broke out after a memorial for Sean Kealiher, an Antifa activist who was struck and killed by an SUV in October 2019 after getting in a fight with the driver at a bar earlier that night

Violence broke out after a memorial for Sean Kealiher, an Antifa activist who was struck and killed by an SUV in October 2019 after getting in a fight with the driver at a bar earlier that night

She organized the protest on Twitter, writing that it was 'not a peaceful event' and dubbing it 'a night of rage and anger'

She organized the protest on Twitter, writing that it was ‘not a peaceful event’ and dubbing it ‘a night of rage and anger’

Wheeler even cited that ‘business owners have closed up shop, for fear of doing business in high risk areas’ and said ‘Commuters fear for their safety, whether taking public transport or going by foot. Parents are scared to let their children play outside.’

The executive director of Portland’s police union Daryl Turner said: ‘We are running on fumes. There’s no way we can investigate thoroughly, and correctly, all these shootings.’

Turner told Fox that the massive slash to the budget could cost lives and the city will need to hire 840 officers over the next five years to be able to properly police Portland and keep its residents safe.

According to the Tribune, to attract officers to the force the mayor is offering a $25,000 signing bonus to the first 50 sworn officers or public safety specialists and has said that he supports hiring back 25 retired police officers.

‘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.

Portland has seen twice as many slayings as neighboring Seattle despite the fact that the city has a larger population of about 725,000.

Two of the most recent homicides happened during a weekend of violence in which there were 54 shooting over a 19-hour period. The victims were killed in the city’s Old Town neighborhood at the Biltmore Hotel, which is used as apartments for the homeless.

Michael S VanDomelen, 45, has been charged with both murders and claimed to have heard voices inside his head telling him to shoot people while he was high on meth, according to court documents.

The homicides comes a year after the Oregon city decriminalized the possession of small amounts of all drugs. Police can no longer arrest someone for possession of small amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone and other drugs. Instead, people found in possession would face a $100 fine or a health check that could lead to addiction counseling, unless they are also facing other charges.

On October 25, following the string of shootings, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell tweeted, ‘The ongoing tragedy of gun violence is on my mind tonight after a terrible weekend of violence in our city. A double murder this weekend. Nineteen shootings in 54 hours. Stunning.’

Chief Lovell continued: ‘I know this violence causes trauma for our whole community, and our first responders are no different. I want to acknowledge the incredible work from PPB members who responded, investigated, made arrests, and seized illegal guns.’

‘It’s a complex problem, and there are many community members/groups that are working hard to address it. PPB is a part of that effort to address this violence. The Focused Intervention Team position has been posted and we’re now recruiting some great PPB officers. More soon.’

Meanwhile, the week prior, at least 100 self-proclaimed anarchists tore through the city, setting dumpsters aflame, smashing windows and causing $500,000 in damage. Police say 35 separate locations were targeted as the force stood idle due to a new state law that restricts how law enforcement can respond to riots by barring crowd control techniques like pepper spray or tear gas.

Instead, law enforcement agencies are told to rely on follow-up investigations to hold rioters accountable.

Portland’s latest round of violence broke out after a memorial for Sean Kealiher, an Antifa activist who was struck and killed by an SUV in October 2019 after getting in a fight with the driver at a bar earlier that night.

Police have not made any arrests in connection to Kealiher’s death, though his mother Laura believes they have identified the culprits, according to the Oregonian/Oregon Live. She organized the protest on Twitter, writing that it was ‘not a peaceful event’ and dubbing it ‘a night of rage and anger.’

She delivered on her promise and, that night, the mob ran amok through the streets and shattered windows, setting fires, spraying graffiti messages like ‘anarchy means attack,’ ‘riots work,’ and ‘breaking windows is good.’

The mob ran amok through the streets and shattered windows, setting fires, spraying graffiti messages like 'anarchy means attack,' 'riots work,' and 'breaking windows is good'

The mob ran amok through the streets and shattered windows, setting fires, spraying graffiti messages like ‘anarchy means attack,’ ‘riots work,’ and ‘breaking windows is good’

Antifa rioters tore through the city following the memorial, spraying painting messages encouraging violence against police

Antifa rioters tore through the city following the memorial, spraying painting messages encouraging violence against police

‘The reason that we did not intervene goes back to what we talked about last month with House Bill 2928 and the restrictions placed on us in a crowd control environment,’ Portland Police Lt. Jake Jensen said in a Pearl District Neighborhood Association meeting, as reported by KOIN. ‘That’s the way the legislature said we need to operate in a crowd control environment so that’s how we’re going to act in a crowd control environment.’

House Bill 2928, whose chief sponsors are Democratic Representative Janelle Bynum and Republican Representative Ronald Noble, bans police from using force to respond to riots and charges any violations as second degree official misconduct.

Jensen said, ‘The fact of the matter is without being able to use pepper spray, without being able to use our 40 millimeter less lethal devices in that kind of environment really prevents us from having access to the tools that we need in large part to keep us safe.’

Jensen added that the issue wouldn’t be solved by adding officers, as many officers were at the scene of the riots last month and could not intervene.

In August, Mayor Ted Wheeler ordered local police officers to not intervene unless civilians were seriously getting hurt or a ‘life safety emergency’ occurred.

This saw members aligned with the Proud Boys and Antifa fighting each other with paintball guns, bats and chemical sprays. One of the most intense of the frays centered on a conservative rally called the Summer of Love, where police ended up getting involved when the groups exchanged gunfire.  



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