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Portland leaders to re-establish anti-gun violence unit

UPDATED: Wed., April 7, 2021

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence  (Sean Meagher)
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence (Sean Meagher)
Associated Press

Associated Press

The mayor of Portland and city commissioners have reached a deal on proposals intended to stem a spike in gun violence over the past year.

The Oregonian reported the compromise, expected to be approved Wednesday, would re-establish a proactive team of uniformed police officers tasked with preventing shootings.

The team would operate with greater civilian oversight than its disbanded predecessor.

The move represents an about-face after city leaders voted in June to cut nearly $16 million from the police budget, reductions that included the elimination of the gun violence unit.

The cuts came amid racial justice protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Under the deal, the council would also provide millions of dollars to community organizations for anti-violence work and authorize the hiring of two dozen unarmed park rangers, as a trio of commissioners proposed last week, according to the proposals.

“We agree that the immediate spike in gun violence is a public health threat that requires a public health response that invests in community-based organizations working to change the conditions and environments that foster violence,” Mayor Ted Wheeler and all four commissioners said in a statement Tuesday evening.

There have been at least 284 shootings this year that have left 91 people injured, Lt. Greg Pashley, a Portland police spokesman, said Tuesday. Firearms have caused 18 of the city’s 25 homicides since Jan. 1.

Statistically, the city is on track to experience 100 homicides if the pace does not slow in the remainder of the year. Portland recorded 55 homicides in 2020, the highest number in 26 years. Forty-one were fatal shootings, with people of color representing more than half of victims, police statistics show.

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