As the Portland City Council prepares to adopt its 2020-21 budget at a virtual session beginning at 2 pm today, Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Chloe Eudaly both announced proposals for deeper cuts to the Portland Police Bureau, including significant layoffs.
Speaking to reporters prior to the meeting, Hardesty presented a plan that, in addition to the previously announced end to school and transit police and the Gun Violence Reduction Team, would reduce the Special Emergency Reaction Team (what many police agencies call their SWAT team) by eight members and shift cannabis tax funding away from the bureau.
In all, Hardesty proposes reducing PPB staffing by 107 employees.
Of that number, 55 would come from vacancies that are currently unfilled, but 52, Hardesty said, would require an actual head-count reduction. That could come through retirements or layoffs.
Hardesty proposes to redirect the savings to a variety of programs, most notably Portland Street Response, a new program that would send a two-person civilian team of a community mental health worker and an EMT to 911 calls that involve neither a medical emergency nor a report of a crime being committed. Previously, Hardesty and Mayor Ted Wheeler had pushed for a pilot program of one two-person team; now, she says, the hope is for six such teams.
Here's what her proposal (which includes two line items from Commissioner Amanda Fritz that would fund a tribal liaison and provide additional funding to the city's Office of Equity and Human Rights) looks like:
Commissioner Eudaly earlier today released a list of proposed cuts that are slightly different from Hardesty's but add up to about the same total savings.
Both commissioners chose larger numbers than Wheeler. The mayor announced earlier this week he'd like to redirect $12 million from city bureaus—including $7 million from the Police Bureau's $244 million budget—to programs benefiting communities of color. It is unclear whether Wheeler and Fritz will support Hardesty and Eudaly's proposals.
Hardesty told reporters she does not favor eliminating the Police Bureau, as some advocates have proposed. She said she would like to see the agency transformed by hiring and training officers differently and reimagining how they interact with the community.
"I don't think abolition is the solution," she said. "What the community wants is a police force that excels at deescalation. The big problem we have is, we train our officers as if they were going into military action."