Dan Ryan, former executive director of the educational nonprofit All Hands Raised, and onetime Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith finished in the top two in the May 19 primary for the City Council vacancy created by Commissioner Nick Fish's death Jan. 2.
Because it's a special election to fill that vacancy, Smith and Ryan will appear on the ballot for a runoff Aug. 11 rather than in November. To help voters make a choice, we will ask them questions each week.
This week, we asked about City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty's proposal to scrap the Portland Police Bureau's Gun Violence Reduction Team. Hardesty and other critics, including Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, say that unit disproportionately targets black men, as did its predecessor, the Gang Enforcement Team.
We asked Ryan and Smith: "Do you support getting rid of the Police Bureau's Gun Violence Reduction Team?"
Loretta Smith: Yes. "I wholeheartedly support Commissioner Hardesty's proposal to divert funding away from the Gun Violence Reduction Team (Gang Enforcement Team) and invest in community-centered, non-militarized public safety.
"The very first thing we have to remember is that the Gun Violence Reduction Team is simply a new name for the old Gang Enforcement Team. This is a team that has disproportionately profiled and targeted black and brown boys in Portland for decades. We can't just give them a new name and expect some sort of transformational change; they are still disproportionately profiling and targeting black and brown boys in Portland today.
"We continue to see a rise in shootings in Portland because the Gun Violence Reduction Team (Gang Enforcement Team) is not the answer to the systemic root issues that underpin gun violence; it's not even an appropriate prescription for the symptoms. We need to be focused on implementing promising strategies to reduce gun violence that are rooted in, and supported by, community. I've called for a 20 percent reduction in PPB's overall budget this fiscal year for reinvestment in alternative non-police public safety efforts and needed socioeconomic services and programs, among other reforms, so this move is also aligned with my vision for how we move the conversation around public safety forward."
Dan Ryan: Yes. "We are well past the time when we as a city and a country need to throw out policing models rooted in Jim Crow laws and built expressly to punish and oppress. Even the name "Gun Violence Response Team" implies that our system is engineered to wait for desperate people to take desperate measures and then say, 'See, we told you so,' while we lock them up and throw away the key.
"We also need to acknowledge that we have dumped a whole host of responsibilities in the laps of our police departments that they are not trained for or equipped to handle, such as mental health crisis response. Too many Portlanders have been killed by police when they were experiencing mental health crises, including several Black men.
"That is why I strongly support pulling all monies from GVRT immediately and using them to fund programs that work, such as Portland Street Response. PSR is a community organization that uses trauma-informed practices to respond to 911 calls involving mental health or substance abuse situations in our homeless population."