Interfaith group wants oversight of new PPB response team

Civic Affairs

The Inter-Faith Peace & Action Collaborative is calling for more of an investment into violence prevention

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An interfaith group in Portland is asking the city to expand the police bureau’s role in gun violence prevention and to create an oversight committee for the city’s new shooting response team.

In an open letter, various community and government organizations said the Portland area has recorded 278 shootings since Jan. 1, with 58 people injured and 17 killed by gunfire. Police said another person was shot and hurt Wednesday night while driving their car on North Alberta Street.

During Thursday’s virtual meeting organized by the Inter-Faith Peace & Action Collaborative (IPAC), Portland police said there have been more than 200 shootings and 20 homicides in the city since Jan. 1. Police said Portland normally sees roughly 20 homicides in an entire year.

IPAC member Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee said they’re asking the city for “more expanded street-level outreach workers.”

“Something must be done and this tide must be stemmed,” he said.

Hennessee said IPAC is also asking city officials to focus on the Portland Police Bureau’s new Enhanced Community Safety Team. The team, which includes three police sergeants, 12 officers and six detectives, started responding to gun violence calls in February. It was created after the city dissolved the PPB’s Gun Violence Reduction Team in the summer.

“We are also asking for investments to be made in PPB where it is very important that we not only look at ECST, but to really help this team be not just reactive but to be proactive, intervene and create accountability,” said Hennessee.

Inter-faith leaders are calling on the city to increase gun crime investigations, fund an on-call team, identify people at risk of violence, increase the number of available detectives, reestablish a uniformed patrol team to engage in violence prevention and form an independent oversight committee. The GVRT lacked community-based oversight, according to Mayor Ted Wheeler.

“Our children are dying. We’re laser-focused on stopping the killing in general but specifically stopping the killing of members of our Black and brown community,” said Keith Edwards with IPAC.

Wheeler said he supports IPAC’s requests. “That’s why I’m asking my council colleagues to appropriate $2 million in one-time funds from the city’s stability reserve contingency fund.”

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