Portland Police are struggling to find officers ready to serve in their newly resurrected gun violence unit, which was disbanded more than a year ago at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The once prestigious positions on Portland’s Gun Violence Reduction Team are now viewed as less desirable due to the added scrutiny that comes with the role.
Homicides have increased since the unit was disbanded last summer after Portland city council voted last summer to slash the police bureau’s budget by $ 15 million. Amid rising gun violence, Mayor Ted Wheeler proposed a new unit in March to be renamed the “Targeted Initiative Team”.
Since 14 openings were announced in May, only four police officers have applied and none have been affected, the Wall Street Journal reported.
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It is believed that the uncertainty surrounding the new role has also slowed down candidates for the Armed Violence Unit, which also includes its own Citizen Advisory Council. And because officials complained about the old unit for alleged racial profiling, the professional qualifications of the new team include the “ability to identify and dismantle institutional and systemic racism in the office’s responses to gun violence.” .
“They demonize you and slander you, and then they want to put you in a unit where you’re under an even bigger microscope,” Daryl Turner, head of the Portland Police Association, a union representing rank and file officers, told the newspaper.
Portland has recorded 53 homicides so far this year, pushing it to surpass the all-time high of 70 in 1987. As officers were redeployed in ongoing violent protests at government buildings that ran through the summer last at the beginning of this year, a sense of lawlessness has increased. Neighborhood patrols suffered and officers became more reluctant to conduct preventive investigative checks.
In voting to disband the former gun violence investigation team last year, Portland officials cited data showing that 52% of checks in 2019 were among black people, who make up 5.8% of the population. city population. But Jami Resch, deputy head of the Portland Police Bureau’s investigations branch, told the Journal that the unit’s past work was beneficial to minority communities, as the shootings disproportionately impacted the 23 percent. of the people of Portland who are not white.
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Police departments across the country have seen an increase in resignations and retirements following massive calls by protesters and lawmakers to “spend the police.”
From April 2020 to March 2021, the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, DC-based think tank, recorded an 18% increase in resignations and a 45% increase in retirements compared to the same period of the previous year.