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LOCAL NEWS

Police Funding

Portland Gettings More Funds For Police Departments


Published on November 18, 2021 9:06 AM
 
 
PORTLAND, Oregon - Hearing the constant shouting of "defund the police," Portland quickly cut millions of dollars from its police budget. A year later the city has changed its tune.

City officials are restoring some of those reduced funds.

In addition, the Portland City Council voted to pass an additional Fall budget which ads more than $18 million for homelessness and $7 million to public safety.

Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioners Mingus Mapps said they support the budget.

The money includes filling vacancies for the Portland Police Bureau using the "retire-rehire" program and expanding the Portland Street Response program.

Before voting, Wheeler acknowledged how much interest there has been from the public on how to allocated a historic budget surplus of $62 million.

Night after night, hundreds of people marched the streets of Oregon's largest city, demanding racial justice after the murder of George Floyd by a white officer.

Among the rallying cries were "defund the police" — a call for elected officials to reallocate some law enforcement funding elsewhere. In June 2020, the Portland City Council and the mayor answered by cutting millions from the police budget.

Now, a year and a half later, officials partially restored the cut funds. On Wednesday, the Portland City Council unanimously passed a fall budget bump that included increasing the current $230 million police budget by an additional $5.2 million. The added police spending is occurring amid a year of a record number of homicides, the city's greatest police staffing shortage in decades and reform recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Justice.

"Many Portlanders no longer feel safe," Mayor Ted Wheeler said. "And it is our duty, as leaders of this city, to take action and deliver better results within our crisis response system."

Portland isn't the only liberal city doing an about-face on police spending. From New York City to Los Angeles — in cities that had some of the largest Black Lives Matter protests, and some with an extensive history of police brutality — police departments are seeing their finances partially restored in response to rising homicides, an officer exodus and political pressures.

In recent mayoral elections, some winning candidates have pledged to bolster public safety budgets. In Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, voters rejected a proposal to replace the police department with a new Department of Public Safety.

Although the three-word call to action was the jumping-off point for communities to talk about how they want to be policed, experts say the goals of "defund the police" are debatable. To some it means abolishing police departments, for others it is about cutting law enforcement budgets and to others it is about reform and accountability.

"The defund-the-police movement spearheaded an opportunity for historically disenfranchised and historically under-resourced communities to express their continued discontent with policing," said Howard Henderson, the Center for Justice Research director at Texas Southern University.

For months, beginning in late May 2020, Portland – one of the whitest cities in America — was roiled by near-nightly Black Lives Matter protests. At the time, officials including Wheeler were criticized for what many described as an overly aggressive police force.