PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Protesters have called for a defunding of the Portland police but some officials are now discussing eliminating the bureau as we know it.
Multnomah County officials are considering a plan that would merge the Portland Police Bureau with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
County Commissioner Sharon Meieran talked about the idea at the end of a local public safety coordinating council last week.
“I think we need to reevaluate the relationship between the sheriff’s office and PPB and whether it is actually time to potentially merge them in a meaningful way,” Meieran said. “I know there are challenges about this, I know it has been discussed in the past but there are tremendous benefits as well. I think we at least need this to be part of our conversations as we are re-envisioning justice.”
The meeting took place hours after protesters tore down two statues and broke windows at the Oregon Historical Society.
Meieran, who is also an emergency room physician, said the idea of combining police officers and county deputies is especially relevant at a time when re-envisioning community safety is center stage. Meieran said the merger would free up resources to provide services to help people before they get into criminal trouble and to take a different approach in responding to people experiencing mental health crises.
Many county employees are trained to handle issues involving mental health and substance abuse. Meieran said they could help with training and crisis response. She believes the idea of combining police and deputies — something that has been done in several other cities across the country — needs to be a community conversation.
In a statement, Mayor Ted Wheeler said the proposal of merging the PPB with the MCSO would take considerable time and effort but should be considered. A likely problematic issue to arise moving forward is the fact that parts of Portland extend into Washington and Clackamas counties.