Portland Council to discuss role of Gun Violence Reduction Team

Multnomah County

Work session on the police unit and body cameras is scheduled as shootings increase in the city

A photo from the scene of a shooting near the Lloyd Center, Feb. 2, 2020. (Portland Police Bureau)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — As shootings continue in Portland, the City Council is scheduled to discuss the role of the police bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team on Thursday, Feb. 6.

The 9:30 a.m. work session will also include a discussion of whether to require police officers to wear body cameras while on duty. Police testimony will not be allowed.

According to the police, shootings have increased in Portland this year compared to 2019. The GVRT responded to 47 shootings by Jan. 27 compared to 28 by the same time during the previous January.

The most recent shooting happened early Sunday when a woman in a car waiting in line at a drive-thru was struck by a stray bullet. Police responded to the report of gunfire just before 2 a.m. near the 700 block of Northeast Weidler Street. By the time officers arrived, the shooter had left the scene and the victim had driven herself to the hospital. Her injuries are described as non-life threatening.

Despite its mission to reduce shootings, the GVRT is controversial. It began as the Gang Enforcement Team with a focus on reducing gang shootings. At that time, GET officers stopped and questioned African-Americans at a disproportionately high rate, according to several audits.

Even though its mission has been expanded to include all shootings, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has repeatedly called for the GVRT to be abolished.

Police officials are expected to explain the current activities of the GVRT and present statistics about recent shootings and gun seizures at Thursday’s work session. The council will begin working on next year’s budget in the coming weeks.

Requiring officers to wear body cameras is also controversial. Other law enforcement agencies in the region and across the county have begun requiring them to better document encounters between officers and citizens, including officer-involved shootings. But privacy advocates have questioned whether they violate the civil rights of citizens being recorded, and the cost of storing the countless hours of recordings is hard to estimate.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 News media partner

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