PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A group, working with a local Care Not Cops Campaign, held a community rally at Roosevelt High School before attending a budget forum held by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Critical Resistance Portland rallied before the forum and through it, demanding that the City of Portland reject a budget increase request from Portland Police and instead “prioritize resources for community based mental health care rather than more police,” the group said in a release.
“What we see is that policing plays out violently in communities of color, black communities, immigrants, particularly in mental heath crisis and actually death which we saw a couple weeks ago,” said Mohamed Shehk with Critical Resistance Portland, citing an officer-involved shooting with John Elifritz.
Cory Lira also agreed with what Shehk said.
“It is time Portland takes a stand and shows our community that we believe in a real community’s self determination and will not continue to dump our funds into increase policing of our most vulnerable communities,” Lira said.
The frustration from the rally carried over into the forum meeting. Yelling and protesting filled the gymnasium at Roosevelt. On April 6, Wheeler sent out a public letter saying public safety is in jeopardy. He also started actively recruiting people to lobby for more police officers.
According to Wheeler, police calls have increased by 25% in the last five years, adding overtime hours for officers and delayed responses. Some officers in particular are making up to an additional $150,000 a year in overtime, Wheeler said,
“That’s no way to fund a bureau — that’s no way to staff a bureau,” Wheeler said. “It’s unprofessional.
“And the bottom line is this for me, when people call 911 they expect police to show up on a timely basis. It’s hard for us to do that when are stretched this thin.”
Wheeler said the cops versus care doesn’t have to be an either or situation. He plans to include increased mental health services, he said, but additional officers are a must.
“While I understand why people are necessarily sensitive to police,” Wheeler said, “we also have to have a bureau that is responsive of the needs of the community.”