It was recently reported that Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler wants more police officers in the city. This came after he downsized the police force and discouraged many other officers so much that they retired or quit. “That atmosphere – including council-imposed budget cuts, disbanding of special police teams, and wide criticism for force used by police during racial justice protests – has led officers to retire or resign at a breakneck pace and some to accept policing jobs elsewhere in Oregon or out of state,” according to The Oregonian.
Between 2020 and 2021, Portland lost 84 sworn officers. As of November 2021, the force was down 128 officers (about 12.8% of the total). The police bureau budget was also reduced by $9 million (about 4%). This cut disbanded police units in schools that investigated gun violence and patrolled the regional public transit system. However, to give credit where credit is due, community activists had wanted a $50 million reduction.
And how did “defunding the police” work out for the city? Crime increased, and 71% of respondents in a recent poll said they felt less safe in the city than in 2020, which was the year of the riots in Portland. The Oregonian reported that 2021 has been the Rose City’s most violent year since 1987, when 70 people were killed. By early October 2021, 69 people had been killed in Portland, and the number was expected to surpass 1987’s number. What’s more, three-quarters of those deaths were shooting. It was also reported that the violence disproportionately affected people of color, in some cases the very people who were calling for the police to be defunded.
“This is the deadliest era in modern times for the city of Portland,” Wheeler said during a press conference. “Many Portlanders no longer feel safe in their city. … Without these investments, the outlook for violence in our city is grim.”
His solution – or as he put it, investments – is to increase public safety spending by $7 million. The funds would be used to rehire 25 retired police officers, hire 200 new sworn officers and 100 unarmed public safety specialists over the next three years.
The city council even seems to be on board with the move.
The problem is: Will officers come to work for Portland with its culture of hatred of police and laws that bind the officers’ ability to do their job?
The former is particularly important. Mayor Wheeler’s $7 million proposals also included $100,000 toward a police “truth and reconciliation” program. If police officers can’t perform their job properly because of bad laws and restrictive regulations, it endangers their lives.
Also, while the politicians currently support the proposal, and two-thirds of the public wants more police officers, social justice groups have already been pushing back against the plan.
Hiring more sworn officers in Portland is a good thing. Equipping them with body cams is also good. It will hold the officers accountable and protect them against false accusations. What it won’t do is protect them against the whims of politicians and community activists. If Portland expects to bring its police force up to the number of officers it wants, then it needs to support those police officers.
Increasing the number of officers is being proposed just a year after their numbers were cut, which represents a partial victory. Finally, people realize that a well-staffed and well-trained police force is needed to keep the peace.
Politicians can’t be rushing to find the nearest television camera after a shooting before a fair and thorough investigation is even completed. Bad laws and regulations that endanger the lives of police officers need to be changed.
Mayor Wheeler can offer all the money he wants for public safety, but if the police officers feel like they are being attacked on all sides, they will quit. Worse yet, if they aren’t allowed to protect themselves properly, they will be injured or killed. That won’t help anyone.
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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.