The city of Portland, Oregon has approved a plan to spend about $6 million to combat a rise in gun violence, with $1.4 million of that going towards unarmed park ranger patrols, local NBC affiliate KGW reports.
“We know this work is important,” said Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell, according to Fox 12 in Oregon. “It’s some of the most important work we do ’cause it really impacts people’s lives and safety every day.”
He added, “So we have to figure out a way where we can be effective in playing our part and be a good partner. But I will say it’s very difficult to do with limited personnel and limited budget.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler said that “this ordinance significantly increases funding for community-based organizations that can help us with deterrence, intervention.”
The Portland Police Bureau will receive none of the $6 million in funding. $4.1 million will go towards community groups in the neighborhoods that have been most affected by gun violence.
“That’s the big corner we turned today, from one where the community is at the recipient end of policing and safety issues to one where the community is now in the driver’s seat,” said the Latino Network’s Tony Defalco.
$1.4 million will help fund the hiring of additional unarmed park rangers who will conduct 24-hour-a-day patrols.
“I think the Enhanced Community Safety Team’s probably really more investigatively-focused. I think this new group will probably be really tied into some community oversight and some community interaction,” Lovell said. “So they’ll be separate, but I think it’s possible that some of their work could overlap, and maybe there’s a need to shift some resources from one to the other.”
He added, “They serve more as ambassadors but I think they could serve as a deterrent and there’s room for their participation.”
However, Portland for Positive Impact founder Randy Philbrick questioned the plan to hire new park rangers.
“My personal feeling is this is what happens when you have public safety policy created by people with zero public safety experience,” he said.
Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said, “What we’re doing today is starting a pathway towards making sure that we are investing dollars where they will make the most good. We’re also at the front end of transforming our police department.”
Wheeler also said, “I apologize to Portlanders of color, particularly for black and brown Portland men too often over many decades you have been the victims of an unfair state and local law enforcement system that has mistreated you and even killed you.”
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