After stripping funds from police last year, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) urged city lawmakers this week to restore some funding for the Portland Police Department as law enforcement there battles violent crime.
During his State of the City address on Friday, Wheeler asked for $2 million in funding for police and other agencies to combat the raging gun violence that is plaguing the city.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
"The move...represents an about-face after city leaders in June voted to cut nearly $16 million from the police budget, reductions that included the elimination of a gun violence reduction unit. The cuts came amid racial justice protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis," the Associated Press reported.
The lion's share of the money would allow the Portland Police Department to hire more detectives and reestablish a patrol division focused on gun violence.
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Some of the money, about $160,000, covers positions and programs within the Office of Violence Prevention for services that target victims of gun violence and others at high risk of gun violence. The biggest portion of the money, just under $1.5 million, would cover five additional detectives for deadly shootings and a uniformed patrol team for gun violence within the police bureau.
Ultimately, the city's Gun Violence Reduction Team was eliminated last year "over concerns of who its officers stopped and why amid calls for police reform," KATU reported.
Now, critics of that decision blame surging gun violence on the GRVT's elimination.
Elmer Yarborough, whose nephew was murdered in Portland just one month after the GRVT was disbanded, told the AP that gun violence victims would be alive today had the unit not been eliminated.
"Without a doubt, I think it is a possibility that my nephew could still be alive if the GRVT was not dissolved," Yarborough said. "I cannot say for sure if he would, but what I will tell you is had it not been my nephew that was saved, it probably could have saved the life of someone else."
City faith leaders agree.
"We believe very strongly that it is important to intercede at this point, and appeal to the city to work with us and and to hear us, as it relates to the need for the tide to be stemmed with the number of shootings on the street," J.W. Matt Hennessee, chairman of Inter-Faith Peace & Action Collaborative, said, the AP reported.
How bad is crime in Portland?
Gun violence has been so bad this year that the city has already seen 20 homicides, most of which were committed with firearms.
As the AP noted, there was just a single homicide during the same period of 2020, which was Portland's deadliest year in more than 25 years.
In fact, Portland did not reach 20 homicides until mid-July last year, KATU noted.