Defunding The Police Bureau Isn’t The Answer

We’ve already been defunded by $15 million. Another $12 million has been lost to COVID cuts. That’s $27 million gone.

What do we have to show for it?

  • Our Gun Violence Reduction Team? Gone, with gun crimes and homicides now through the roof, and huge, disproportionate impacts on communities of color.
  • School Resource Officers? Gone, leaving no on-site engagement and community relations in our schools.
  • Our Special Emergency Response Team? Gutted, leaving the community in peril when dire incidents arise, like hostage situations.
  • 84 police positions? Gone, leaving us with fewer officers than we had in 1995, even though we have 150,000 more residents living in our City.
  • What does the City have to show for the $15 million it took from the Police Bureau? Nothing.
  • The much-heralded (non-police) Portland Street Response? Nowhere to be seen.

So, what’s next? In the most misguided move possible, City Council may take even more from the Police Bureau. $18 million more.

The results?

  • Elimination of the Behavioral Health Unit and Service Coordination Team, resulting in the loss of proactive services that help people find housing, get sober, seek work, and get out of the repetitive cycle of the criminal justice system.
  • Elimination of the Community Engagement Unit, resulting in the loss of community policing that builds relationships with the community, particularly people of color.
  • Elimination of the Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit, resulting in the loss of investigations of organized drug trafficking and activities.
  • Elimination of the Air Support Unit, resulting in the loss of air support that our patrol officers use to safely locate and apprehend dangerous suspects.
  • Elimination of the Traffic Division, resulting in the lost enforcement of traffic laws, deterrence of bad driving that can have deadly consequences, and investigations into traffic fatalities.
  • Elimination of the Emergency Management Unit, resulting in lost planning for responses to citywide emergencies like natural disasters.
  • Elimination of the Neighborhood Response Teams, resulting in the loss of direct engagement with small businesses and neighborhoods to address livability issues.
  • Elimination of the Criminal Intelligence Unit, resulting in the loss of critical information on career criminals, crime trends, and domestic terrorism.
  • Elimination of the Canine Unit, resulting in the loss of highly trained, less-lethal canine partners that assist officers in finding and arresting dangerous suspects.
  • 42 more police officer positions gone, leaving even fewer officers to serve the public and longer response times to 911 calls.
  • Noncompliance with the United States Department of Justice Settlement Agreement, which requires the City to adequately fund and staff the Police Bureau.

Who wins? Extremists with anti-police, anti-neighborhood, anti-business, anti-public safety ideologies.

Who loses? Everyone. Especially crime victims.

Who will bring justice for the family whose loved one is killed in a senseless act of violence?

Who will bring justice to our wives, sisters, and daughters who are brutally assaulted?

Who will be there to answer the call when someone’s home — their sanctuary — is broken into and trashed?

Who will be there to answer the call when a small business owner has lost everything to thieves?

Who will be there to answer the call when the only mode of transportation is stolen from the worker just barely getting by during a pandemic?

Who will be there to answer the call when the most basic of needs — public safety — is at risk?

Who will be there to answer the call when the fabric of our social contract that guarantees us basic safety in our daily lives is torn to shreds?

At this rate, no one.

It is disingenuous and misleading for any person – including Commissioners Hardesty and Eudaly – to claim that their desired budget cuts will not reduce police staffing. Of course it will. Not only will we lose the 126 positions waiting to be filled with new hires, but we will also surely suffer layoffs of tenured police officers when the Police Bureau has to balance its budget with 45 million fewer dollars.

By our estimation, we would suffer catastrophic layoffs. Over 120 sworn officers – the newest, most diverse officers who have the entirety of their careers serving the City in front of them – would be laid off. We need to reflect on what that means because will ruin public safety and livability; it will ruin our City.

Our system of city government is broken. It only takes 3 Council members with extreme, anti-police ideologies to destroy public safety for a city with over 650,000 residents. The dedicated officers serving our communities deserve better. Everybody in our city deserves better.

Daryl Turner, President
Portland Police Association