Many cities chose to defund and disband various parts of their police departments over the last year. Some of those cities are not looking to breathe new life into some of the disbanded teams, but the interest in helping just isn’t there.
In 2020, Portlands City Council took apart the gun violence reduction team. The Portland Police Burea could do nothing as anti-police activists convinced city leaders that the team needed to go because they “targeted” people of color disproportionately.
As many cities that have taken similar actions have seen, crime began to skyrocket. In particular, Portland’s homicide rate has gone up.
City leaders decided it was time to bring the unit back—this time with a catchy new name, the Focused Initiative Team.
New Name Similar Goal
The team is to reduce crime, but with a twist. They work with an 11-member citizen advisory committee. According to Portlands Mayor Ted Wheeler, the committee will look after a 14 member unit.
However, there is one major hitch in the new plan. Officers are not signing up to join. In fact, only four officers have joined.
According to Assistant Chief of Investigations Jami Resch, the officers do not want to be a part of an overly political unit. There is also a strangely ambiguous relationship with the committee.
Not Too Eager
Portland Police Union President Daryl Turner said that finding why officers are not volunteering is not really difficult.
“They’re demonizing and vilifying you, and then they want to put you in a unit where you’re under an even bigger microscope,” Turner said to the Wall Street Journal.
Currently, the number of homicides in Portland sits at 53 for 2021. The highest year on record is 1987, with 70 for the entire year.
High Homocide Rate
PPB Chief Chuck Lovell and Wheeler talked about the high rates in a press conference. They said the reason was that due to the defunded department, officers were “outmatched” and “underprepared.”
“We’ve had many years of growth as a city and a shrinking police department. You can only go so far in that direction before you reach a tipping point.”Chief Lovell
Wheeler suggests that they need to formulate a plan to deal with the rise in numbers. He also wants to know what officers need to do their jobs better while at the same time not giving them any more funding.