PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The debate over how to stop the rise in gun violence in Portland is heating up.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who has been vocal about cutting police funding, said Thursday she and other commissioners don’t support giving the additional $2 million to the police bureau’s newly-formed Enhanced Community Safety Team. She referred to the high rate of gun violence in the community as “devastating” and said governments across the country are “struggling with how to respond.”
The proposal to do so came from the Interfaith Peace and Action Collaborative. Mayor Ted Wheeler said at the time he supported that funding, which would go toward the newly-formed Enhanced Community Safety Team.
In a one-on-one interview with KOIN 6 News, Hardesty said she and other commissioners are putting together their own counter-proposal which would not include any additional funding for the Portland Police Bureau. “A response to gun violence should not be a knee-jerk reaction,” Hardesty said, adding that she’s “really proud” of her colleagues who did not support the additional funding proposal originally backed by Wheeler. “The police have a role, but their role is simply to solve crime; their role is not to prevent crime, their role is not to intervene in other community activities.”
“Police talk about a public health model but people who work in community organizations really work from a public health model. We know this massive increase in gun violence is for many reasons — one, there are way too many guns on the streets and it’s way too easy to get guns,” said Hardesty. The commissioner said she hasn’t heard from any other city commissioners who may support the IPAC proposal for additional police funding.
Hardesty said their new proposal would also address access to guns. She reaffirmed her position that the disbanding of the Gun Violence Reduction Team last year is not to blame for the rise in gun crimes. “It is a totally unrelated issue,” she said.
The PPB, meanwhile, has said it lacks the resources it needs to carry out investigations and that the rise in gun violence coupled with staffing shortages is inhibiting their ability to respond to 911 calls.
“Let me just say, the police have the resources — the police don’t need specialty units to solve crime,” Hardesty said.
Hardesty also discussed the PPB report recently leaked to the media that falsely tied her to a hit-and-run crash in Portland. “I think I feel like most African Americans in this community,” she said. “I’m always a little nervous when I interact with police officers. More so now, because now I know if people are intentionally leaking this information to try to discredit me. On one point, I must be headed in the right direction. But I’m fortunate I have a platform to defend myself.”