Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty Wants to Redirect $4.8 Million in Police Budget to Unarmed Portland Street Response

Hardesty provides more details of her plan to defund specialty units and move toward unarmed street response.

Jo Ann Hardesty speaks to protesters on June 5, 2020. (Brian Burk)

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty proposes to transfer $4.8 million from defunded specialty police units in order "to fund Portland Street Response, a new unarmed, non-police first response option," she wrote on social media this afternoon.

Hardesty on Friday night announced she would seek to amend the Portland Police Bureau's budget to defund the Gun Violence Reduction Team and the transit police unit. (Hardesty did not add the removal of transit police in her announcement of amendments today, because the Police Bureau had already scheduled the unit to phase out this fiscal year.)

Her announcement this afternoon explains where she wants the money to go.

The changes she proposes fit broadly into demands protesters are making across the country to defund police.

"We are long overdue for action on community safety and police alternatives," says Hardesty in a statement. "I'm proposing to defund some of the bureau's most racially unjust units, and instead fund alternatives like Portland Street Response. Our communities have long been telling government officials what needs to be done, and now we have the opportunity to put our words into action."

She also announced her support for no longer "using Cannabis Tax Funds to fill funding gaps for the Traffic Division," which was part of City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly's package of proposed police reforms on Friday. Eudaly has long supported that change.

The two are closely aligned on police issues. It's not clear whether Mayor Ted Wheeler or City Commissioner Amanda Fritz will back any of these proposals. (Neither responded to requests made over the weekend for comment on Hardesty's initial proposal.)

But there is new pressure on Wheeler to make changes at the Police Bureau.

In a June 8 letter to Eudaly from the Oregon Cannabis Association, the trade organization throws its support behind redirecting funds from the Portland cannabis tax from police and law enforcement to "social programs and services that aid African American, Latinx, and Native American people in our communities."

The letter represents the voices of over 200 weed businesses that say they're committed to supporting communities of color who they recognize have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

"It is imperative that you take strong steps to end the distribution of these funds, even in the face of declining revenues, to the same law enforcement agency that very often is the perpetrator of similar actions that caused the demonstrations in Portland these past weeks," the letter states.

The mayor has said he'll announce his own package of reforms tomorrow.

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