PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The executive director of the Portland Police Association believes staffing shortages at the police bureau are contributing to the city’s struggle to curb gun violence.
So far in 2021, Portland has seen 889 shootings and 46 homicides involving guns, according to police data. In recent days there have been shootings that left more than 100 shell casings littering the street near NE 95th and Prescott. Another 26 bullets were found near SE 72nd and Woodstock. A woman narrowly escaped injury when one of the bullets went through her windshield and 2 other bullets hit a Portland Park Ranger truck.
Another recent shooting took place Sept. 4 in broad daylight in Adam Johnson’s Northeast Portland neighborhood. His 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter were riding bikes and a scooter around their house while he was in the front yard when he heard a vehicle speed down the street and stop at a stop sign. A man got out of the car and began yelling at the people in the car behind him.
“I grabbed my 5-year-old daughter who was on the sidewalk next to me, ran and hid her behind the fence,” said Johnson. “Just as I was laying her down, the shots rang out.”
Surveillance video shows people in the second car get out and fire shots down the street. Johnson said in that moment, he didn’t know where his son was. He had to run toward the shooter, then down the driveway where he found his son safe in the garage.
“My son, when I picked him up, said ‘what are the bad guys doing?'” Johnson recalled.
Johnson wants to know what immediate action city leaders will take to stop people from opening fire in neighborhoods.
“I would like our mayor to understand whatever action he takes, it’s not going to please everybody — there are going to be people that will be upset with whatever he does and our current situation requires someone to be bold,” he said.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and PPB Chief Chuck Lovell held a press conference Friday to address public safety. During that meeting, KOIN 6 reporter Elise Haas pressed Wheeler about why he didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment following the shooting near Johnson’s home.
“I honestly can’t answer that question, because I don’t know anything about that particular outreach to the office, but I’ll get directly to your question about accountability and the steps going forward,” Wheeler said.
PPA Executive Director Daryl Turner said staffing shortages and the city’s defunding of the Portland Police Bureau are partly blame for the uptick in gun violence.
Turner said the city “immediately saw a spike in gun violence” after the PPB’s Gun Violence Reduction Team was dissolved in the summer of 2020.
“Bring back police officers that retired in a role that can help solve some of the gaps in staffing at the street level patrol officers as well in the specialty units we need to fill,” he said.
Wheeler said he’s working to restaff the police bureau and will submit a proposal in the fall to fund a retire/rehire initiative for police. This could help the PPB quickly increase the number of active officers on a limited duration basis.
City leaders are expected to discuss the PPB’s budget at the end of September.