Monday, December 6, 2021

Portland Among US Cities Returns Funds To Police Departments

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) – Night after night, hundreds of people marched through the streets of Oregon’s largest city, demanding racial justice after the assassination of George Floyd by a white officer.

Among the calls for rallying was the “abandonment of the police” – a call for elected officials to redistribute some of the funding for law enforcement elsewhere. In June 2020, Portland City Council and the mayor responded by cutting millions from the police budget.

Now, after a year and a half, officials have partially restored the cut funds. On Wednesday, Portland City Council unanimously passed a budget increase for the fall, which included an increase in the current police budget of $ 230 million by an additional $ 5.2 million. Additional police spending comes amid a record number of murders, the city’s largest police shortage in decades, and the Justice Department’s reform recommendations.

READ MORE: Portland Paid $ 2.1 Million For Police Shooting Black Teen Kuanis Hayes

“Many Portland residents no longer feel safe,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said. “And it is our duty as leaders of this city to act and achieve better results within our crisis response system.”

Portland isn’t the only liberal city to dramatically change police spending. From New York to Los Angeles – cities that have hosted some of the biggest Black Lives Matter protests, and some with a long history of police brutality – police departments are seeing their finances recover in part in response to rising homicides, the outcome officers and political life. pressure.

In the recent mayoral election, some winning candidates have pledged to increase 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.

While the three-word call to action provided a starting point for communities to talk about how they want to be guarded, experts say the goals of “acquitting the police” are controversial. For some, this means eliminating police departments, for others, cutting law enforcement budgets, and for others, reform and accountability.

“The police protection movement has spearheaded an opportunity for historically disenfranchised and historically resource-constrained communities to voice their continuing dissatisfaction with the police,” said Howard Henderson, director of the University of Texas Justice Research Center.

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

In the midst of the protests, officers reported more than 6,000 incidents of force. The US Department of Justice reproached the bureau for being “overly dependent” on tactics of violence.

Portland police are known for their belligerence. In 2014, the city and the Justice Department reached a settlement agreement following a federal investigation that found Portland officers used excessive force against people with mental illness. Some of the police spending approved Wednesday, including $ 2.7 million to carry cameras and hire personnel to evaluate police department riot control tactics, was in line with Justice Department reform requirements.

READ MORE: Portland Mayor Banned Police Using Tear Gas During Protests

During protests last year, Portlanders called for a $ 50 million cut from the department’s budget, and that money will go to public initiatives.

The city council responded with a $ 15 million cut. Another $ 12 million was cut due to the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. As a result, school resource specialists, traffic police and a firearm violence reduction team found to disproportionately target Black Portland residents during traffic stops were disbanded in March 2018.

Similar actions have been taken elsewhere.

After the protests, the Los Angeles City Council cut $ 150 million from the police budget, promising to invest the money in other social services. Likewise, New York City lawmakers have approved a $ 1 billion transfer from law enforcement to education and social services. At the time, the NYPD’s budget was about $ 6 billion, of which several billion dollars were more than general city expenses like pensions. However, after the reduction, fears of crime led to a recovery in funding of about $ 200 million.

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Henderson says some of the loudest voices in the defund movement were not from the most crime-ridden areas.

“People who live in these highly criminal communities…. they don’t want to get rid of the police entirely, ”Henderson said. “They want to get rid of bad police work,”

In Portland, gun violence has disproportionately affected communities of color. Family members of murder victims and lawyers working with young gang members are questioning layoffs and are asking for more police presence, accountability and social services.

READ MORE: In mental health crises, calling the emergency services now calls for a mixed team of assistants and possibly no police officers.

In the November elections, the main focus was on when and where the police are needed.

In Seattle, mayoral candidates who wanted to acquit the police stumbled. In New York City, former police captain Eric Adams was elected mayor, who did not support calls for the acquittal of the police.

In Minneapolis, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo has proposed a $ 192 million budget for 2022 that will restore funding to levels that were before Floyd’s death. The proposed budget, which will be voted on in December, includes funds to replace about 300 people who have left since last year.

Likewise, in Portland, the police department does not exceed the authorized strength by 128. Additional police spending includes signing bonuses for new officers, funding a retirement and rehiring program, and expanding recruitment to recruit 200 additional jury officers and 100 unarmed public security officers by 2024, in what some proponents see as a significant reform victory and compromise. to the funding police.

Nationwide, the number of homicides increased by almost 30% from 2019 to 2020, according to the FBI. However, in Portland, deadly violence has grown faster than in nearly all major cities, with homicide rates up 83% in 2020.

FEEDBACK: A year after the assassination of George Floyd.

Aaron Chalfin, a criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied police budgets in major cities over four decades, says that in 54% of cases when cities hired more officers, homicide rates decreased. Fluctuations in crime rates are influenced by many factors, including the number of officers and the budgets of police departments. Other factors include financial and mental health problems caused by the pandemic, the economy, youth programs, and even the amount of street lighting.

According to Chalfin, there are “a million reasons for the rise and fall of crime.”

Throughout the country, officials used the Police Release Movement to discuss alternative policing options.

In Portland, this paved the way for City Commissioner Joe Ann Hardesty – the first black woman to be elected to the City Council and key architect of police reform plans – to create Portland Street Response. An alternative to unarmed police officers, consisting of a paramedic, a mental health crisis response specialist, and peer support specialists, is responding to non-emergency calls for people in crisis.

Henderson said the “police abandonment” triggered a valuable nationwide conversation.

“In the end, it was the best phrase? Maybe it was? Maybe it’s not so? Henderson said. “But at least we are talking about it.”

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