County Commissioner Publicly Suggests Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Absorb Portland Police Bureau

There’s overlap in the agencies’ work, the county already handles many criminal justice functions—and Wheeler is interested.

Riot cop in downtown Portland on Sept. 26, 2020. (Alex Wittwer)

As numerous groups and elected officials ponder how to reform the Portland Police Bureau, Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran last week made public one of the ideas that many officials have discussed privately: folding PPB into the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.

Meieran voiced the idea at a meeting of the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council. The rationale: The two agencies have many duplicative functions, and the county already covers prosecution, jailing and post-incarceration supervision, as well as mental health and addiction services and public health functions that overlap with police work.

Meieran says such a reorganization could occur as part of the charter reform work the city is commencing. "In the context of deep community safety systems reform, it's time to seriously consider dissolving PPB and potentially bringing the work of law enforcement to the county, which has a much broader, integrated, upstream and holistic approach toward public health, safety and justice," she says.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who oversees the Police Bureau, says he and Meieran have regularly spoken about how the city and county could work together better and he's interested in her suggestion.

"I remain intrigued by the idea of a merger and am pleased that Commissioner Meieran is interested in significant structural changes," Wheeler says. "This is obviously a big idea that would take considerable time and effort to structure and implement, but everything should be on the table for community consideration right now."

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