Portland's next brainstorm: Cops without guns

The tagline “keep Portland weird” never really seems to go out of style. The Oregon city’s mayor will shortly be rolling out a new program designed to expand the city’s police force. Given all the Antifa violence they’re dealing with, that sounds like a good idea. But these new officers aren’t exactly cops. They’re Public Safety Support Specialists or PS3s, and they won’t be carrying firearms or responding to emergency calls. So what exactly are they going to be doing? (Willamette Week)

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler plans to bring a new policing pilot program before City Council for final approval on Wednesday, Dec. 5.

The Public Safety Support Specialists, or PS3s, will be non-sworn officers who do not carry guns.

“They will be engaged in the community in non-emergency calls, so that’s things like property crimes, break-ins,” Wheeler tells WW.

The PS3s grew out of a proposal in the 2016 police union contract approved under then-Mayor Charlie Hales to create Community Service Officers who would respond to minor property crimes and nuisance calls, among other things.

In order to pay for this program, the city shut down their Mounted Patrol (the cops you see riding horses). So basically they cut back on the presence of actual police to put in some people without weapons or full police training?

If you take the job description being put forward by the city at face value, I have to wonder about the safety of these new officers. They won’t be going out on 911 calls unless they’re with an actual police officer but will be able to respond to things like property crimes and break-ins. If somebody calls the police about a break-in, it seems to me that there’s always the chance that the perpetrator might still be in the vicinity. And sometimes burglars are armed. Do you really want to send an unarmed “safety support specialist” into that situation?

That might not be the case, however. The police union is claiming that the new PS3s won’t even be going out on those calls. Instead, they’ll be “manning the front desks at precincts or waiting for tow trucks at car accidents.” I agree that those tasks sound much safer, but it’s not exactly police work in the traditional sense, either.

Why is Portland doing this? If the objective is to have the staffing to conduct the business of law enforcement, you hire more cops. And if you think that’s too expensive, you need to reexamine your priorities and find the money in your budget elsewhere. This sounds like an expensive experiment that’s not going to make anyone safer.