Refund the police: After spike in shootings, Portland residents overwhelmingly support hiring more officers

Last Friday I pointed out that Portland was nearing a historical record in terms of the number of murders in a single year. The record, set in 1987 was 70. As of Friday, Portland had recorded 68 this year. And then Friday night, there was another shooting and another death.

Portland police reported 13 shootings in 28 hours from Friday night to Sunday morning, as gun violence continues to surge across the city and put Portland on pace to surpass its record for deadliest year in modern history.

One person was killed in a shooting in a park in North Portland on Friday night, marking the city’s 69th homicide this year. Police said officers responded to McCoy Park around 11:15 p.m. and found a man dead. 

On the same day that murder happened, the Portland Police Association made a pitch for doubling the number of officers in the city over the next five years. Here’s a bit of what they posted:

In the last 20 years, Portland’s population has grown by over 170,000 people. During that time, PPB has grown and evolved its policing policies and practices to better meet the city’s desire for broadminded and sophisticated police professionals. Yet our city has fewer police officers now than in 1999.

Currently, we have 916 allocated sworn positions in PPB from the newest recruit to the Chief of Police. That number is expected to dwindle to 883 in ongoing budget talks. Of those positions, 794 are currently filled (with 59 of those officers in training). Our population and policing practices have grown to the point where we now need additional PPB staffing to adequately meet public safety needs. We need quality and quantity when it comes to police staffing.

Looking at comparable cities, the City of Portland should increase from 1.36 to 2.5 officers per thousand population according to FBI statistics. Using current population, PPB should have 1,634 officers to reach that industry metric.

To get there, the city would need to hire more officers then they currently have over the next five years. Naturally, there are many who oppose this plan. A group called Unite Oregon called the PPA plan a “bargaining tactic” and noted that the PPA was currently negotiating a new contract with the city. Portland has invested in policing alternatives, including Portland Street Response which sends non-officers on calls related to homlessness or mental health issues.

Even if that alternative program works, those calls aren’t the ones that result from the skyrocketing number of shootings. So what is the plan for dealing with that problem? If you go to Unite Oregon’s website, they say “we will continue to push towards an eventual full defunding of the police.” How is eliminating more police going to help the rising murder rate? They don’t say.

But if the activists on the far left haven’t changed their tune at all, the same can’t be said for the public. A survey taken by a group called People for Portland found that respondents overwhelmingly support more cops on the street, including many who previously supported defunding.

The survey showed 76% of Portland residents know the city’s problems are real and not exaggerated by the media. A full 60% of those who were once opposed to police are now beginning to support more police being hired, and 71% say they support hiring more police officers even though they are concerned about social justice and racism in the bureau.

Comments made by City Commissioner Mingus Mapps also were part of the survey. Mapps, who is Black, said the city needs to hire 300 new officers, require body cameras, have a dedicated social worker street response team and have a unit dedicated to fighting gangs. An overwhelming 87% of respondents agreed with him…

Only 8% of respondents do not support hiring more police officers in Portland.

Another questions in the survey found only 16% of respondents supported defunding the police. With constant news like this report on the shootings this weekend, it’s no surprise that people want to see something done. As you’ll see in this clip, police are so short-handed right now that in some cases they are accepting help from random residents to try to work crime scenes.