We Asked Candidates for Portland Mayor if They Would Defund the Police and By How Much

As Oregonians weigh their choices for November, we start quizzing the candidates.

Portland police amid tear gas. (Alex Wittwer)

Wait's over. It's time. Oregonians will begin receiving ballots in the mail three weeks from now. Among the choices facing Portlanders: contested races for Oregon secretary of state, Portland mayor and a City Council seat. Starting this week, WW will ask the candidates questions intended to clarify their priorities, draw distinctions between their values, and establish how they view the office they're seeking.

Portland Mayor

Mayor Ted Wheeler ran for office four years ago on a platform of police reform. This summer, in the face of Black Lives Matter protests, Wheeler cut the Police Bureau budget, though not enough to please protesters or their allies. We asked the mayor and his challengers for the bottom line:

Should the budget for the Portland Police Bureau be increased, decreased or remain the same in the next budget cycle? How much should it change by? Where should the money come from and where should it go?

Mayor Ted Wheeler:

Continue decreases to the Portland Police Bureau by less than $5 million each of the next two years

"I'm proud that my administration has done more to demand and implement reforms than any past mayor. We've started an unarmed response unit, created the Portland Committee on Community Engaged Policing, expanded behavioral health capacity, and mandated bias and deescalation training.

"This summer, I committed to reallocating $12 million in funds from PPB to support communities of color and implement reforms. That was in addition to approximately $15 million in reductions already announced by my administration earlier this year.

"Last fall, I also directed a 2% budget reduction for PPB over the course of the next three years. In collaboration with Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, we created the Public Safety Working Group, which started the process of making these cuts. The savings from these would be used to fund programs like Portland Street Response and other programs prioritized by the council through the budget process.

"We have a long way to go, and voters have a chance to help push overdue reforms in November."

Sarah Iannarone:

Decrease the police budget by at least $25 million

"We must listen to our BIPOC community on issues impacting them most. I supported the research and advocacy of leaders like Unite Oregon and the Portland African American Leadership Forum calling to return the Police Bureau budget to pre-2016 levels by eliminating biased programming and redirecting $50 million to community-led public safety programs.

"We're asking police to do too much. The same officers we watch brutalizing protesters are not appropriate first responders for those experiencing houselessness or in mental health crisis. We need to provide real help for everyone who calls in a way that reflects our values.

"The police budget has increased while City Council has cut vital programs like parks and YouthPass. Had council taken the opportunity for transformational change, these costly nightly protests would have reduced in intensity and frequency. Portlanders want us spending our precious dollars on economic recovery and community resilience rather than squandering them on police overtime at protests, tear gas, and costly lawsuits regarding police brutality. We should look into expanding the Portland Street Response, piloting a guaranteed-income program for marginalized and vulnerable people, investing in communities harmed by overpolicing, and building community safety hubs across neighborhoods to prepare for disaster, displacement and pandemic."

Teressa Raiford:

She did not respond to WW's request for comment.

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