Maybe the timing here is just a coincidence but it certainly looks as if Mayor Wheeler got the message. After a bunch of defund/abolish the police candidates in Seattle lost their races to more moderate candidates (including a Republican) who support the police, Wheeler came out Wednesday and basically trash talked his own city.
“This is the deadliest era in modern times for the city of Portland. As 2021 winds down, we has surpassed a historical threshold with 72 homicides and over 1,000 shootings in our city,” Wheeler said.
He went on to say, “Many Portlanders no longer feel safe in their city. Business owners have closed up shop for fear of doing business in high risk areas. Commuters fear for their safety, whether taking public transport or going by foot. Parents are scared to let their children play outside.”
“I hear your fear and your frustration,” he said. He then turned to his plan to invest in public safety in Portland.
Starting in the fiscal year 2023, Wheeler said he wants to increase the police bureau’s staffing numbers by 300 officers — 200 sworn officers and 100 unarmed public safety specialists — over the next three years.
To attract more officers to the force, Wheeler is proposing $25,000 signing bonuses to the first 50 officers or public safety specialists. He is also supporting hiring back 25 retired police officers.
“Our police bureau staffing levels are at record lows and based on projected retirements, staffing levels will continue (to decrease) unless we take decisive action now,” Wheeler said.
Since August 2020, about 200 officers have left the department. Many, in their exit interviews, cited low morale, lack of support from city officials and burnout from months of racial justice protests, which often ended in plumes of tear gas before largely dying down last fall.
The total cost of the plan is around $7 million and that includes about $2 million for body cameras for Seattle police. All of this comes more than a year after Portland cut $15 million from the police budget last year. So if you’re wondering why crime is up and staffing and morale are down, there’s your answer.
All of this is so dumb and so predictable. Everyone at this site was saying this would be a disaster last summer and it clearly has been. And let’s not pretend that all of this foolish experimentation with public safety was necessary. I know I wrote last year that some police reforms, including body cameras, made sense and were worth pursuing. That was always a discussion adults in every part of the country could have about how to do things differently after the death of George Floyd. But burning precincts and throwing police under the bus was always counter-productive. It was more about placating an angry mob than improving public safety.
For goodness sake, people, even Vox, the home of the counter-intuitive data argument, has repeatedly argued that there’s a direct connection between policing levels and crime:
There is solid evidence that more police officers and certain policing strategies reduce crime and violence. In a recent survey of criminal justice experts, a majority said increasing police budgets would improve public safety. The evidence is especially strong for strategies that home in on very specific problems, individuals, or groups that are causing a lot of crime or violence — approaches that would require restructuring how many police departments work today.
That runs contrary to the push to “defund the police” in progressive circles, which tend to focus on cutting policing to boost alternatives. In the same survey of experts, most said that increasing social service budgets would improve public safety. But experts also say there’s no reason, if the goal is to fight crime, that communities shouldn’t expand both policing and social services — what University of Missouri St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld calls a “both-and” approach.
Again, this was all very obvious. You could always change up public safety and invest in new pilot programs without slashing police budgets or bashing cops as racists. Unfortunately it took Portland, Minneapolis and other places around the country more than a year to figure that out. Here’s Mayor Wheeler explaining how he plans to undo a mistake that clueless progressives in his city made just over a year ago.