Mayor Ted Wheeler’s Campaign for More Police Officers Faces Pushback in City Hall

The Portland Police Bureau has requested 93 officers. The City Budget Office has recommended 14. The swing vote in city hall is skeptical of both.

WW item earlier this week asking City Council candidates to say if they support increasing the police budget included significant news for Mayor Ted Wheeler's push to add more police officers.

In a response to a question about whether he would support increasing the budget for the Portland Police Bureau to hire the 93 officers the bureau had requested for next year, City Commissioner Nick Fish, who is campaigning for reelection, said no.

Fish said he was even reluctant to support the 14 officers recommended by the City Budget Office, if the increase came at the expense of the city's parks.

Related: Mayor Ted Wheeler Asked Citizens to Lobby for More Cops. We Asked Candidates to Say Yes or No.

"The independent budget office recommends hiring 14 new officers this year, but even that smaller number would mean tough cuts elsewhere," says Fish.

"I believe in community policing and creative strategies to keep our neighborhoods safe and livable. But as a former parks commissioner, I do not support cuts to parks programs our families, children and seniors depend on."

Fish was considered the swing vote at City Hall on this item and the prospect of voting to shut down community centers (Parks & Rec has offered that cut) to add police officers is not the easiest vote to take in the midst of a reelection campaign, even one that Fish is expected to win.

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman is expected to support an expansion of the police, though what number of officers is another question.

Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Chloe Eudaly are expected to vote against an expansion at the expense of other priorities.

Fritz was near-tears at a budget forum earlier this month over potential cuts to parks, the Oregonian City Hall reporter Tweeted.

That may help explain why the mayor didn't mention a specific budget request for police officers in his State of the City yesterday, as OPB reported yesterday. (The speech also came five days after a police shooting.)

The fact that he faces meaningful opposition in City Hall may also explain why he's beginning to make the argument in the strongest terms possible.

"Despite national trends, some crime stats are also increasing rapidly in our own community," Wheeler said yesterday.

"Person crimes – that includes things like assaults, homicides, sex offenses – they have increased and continue to increase at a faster rate than last year; property crimes have increased and they continue to increase at a faster rate than last year."

"It is irresponsible for any elected official to not respond to that reality," the mayor said.

Crime is up overall this year, according to data provided by the mayor's office. But the data the city has are from less than three years, and do not show a statistically significant trend.

The long-term trajectory of crime in the city remains down.

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