Commissioners want more cash, not cops, in gun violence fight

Civic Affairs

Proposal authored by multiple Portland city commissioners calls for park rangers and support for community groups

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Some members of the Portland City Council have put forth a proposal aimed at combatting gun violence in the city and it does not include increased funding for police.

The proposal, which KOIN 6 News obtained Thursday from the office of Commissioner Carmen Rubio, is in response to a $2 million proposal floated by Mayor Ted Wheeler for the Portland Police Bureau’s Enhanced Community Safety Team.

“When the Mayor brought forward his proposal, he also offered space for feedback and collaboration around that proposal,” Rubio’s office said in a statement. “At this point, the question is not what proposal is supported and which is opposed, but rather what elements everyone can support. With those in mind, we’re working together to develop a proposal that disrupts cycles of gun violence, and results in real systems change. We look forward to sharing a cohesive proposal once one exists.”

Instead, the proposal released by Rubio seeks to invest $3.5 million in various organizations that work with communities impacted by gun violence, another $600,000 to build up small or emerging contractors like Word Is Bond and Redstone Collective and $1.4 million to expand park ranger patrols.

Redstone Rudy Serna, the founder of Redstone Collective, said he was excited to be included in the proposal. Serna is an artist and a teacher and mentor to the homeless as well as gang and drug-impacted youth. Serna said he had experiences with gangs in Chicago as a youth and the impact of teachings from the Native American community shaped his art and the mission at Redstone Collective.

“As I got older, I realized it was a way I could relate to these young people really quick so I let myself be vulnerable and share these stories,” he said. “The kids that are in those situations I know truly have come to a place in their life where they are not seeing any other choices and they are in survival mode and I know I can remind them there is another way.”

In the memo, commissioners recommend adding 24 park rangers to patrol 12,000 acres of city park land and surrounding areas 24/7 from May to December. The proposal states these rangers, who are not sworn officers, “use a combination of education and positive engagement to reduce harm to park resources and the visitor experience.” They can kick people out of city parks and also issue civil penalties.

While this proposal does not advocate for additional PPB funding, those who support the plan want the bureau to shuffle its resources to create six new assault investigative detectives and one sergeant.

“This Council cannot prioritize any new investments to the Portland Police Bureau or the Office of Violence Prevention until we develop a comprehensive plan and timeline to build a community-centered safety system that is right for Portland and co-led by the community. Once we have that vision, we will evaluate for its cost,” the proposal states.

The counteroffer calls for immediate action to be taken and for the proposal’s short-term plans to be put in place by the end of April.

“The Portland City Council is unanimous in its goal of ending the cycles of gun violence on Portland’s streets,” said Rubio’s office. “The harm we are witnessing daily in our community to immediate victims, their families and surrounding neighbors requires actions that must complement and extend beyond the responsibilities of PPB. When the Mayor brought forward his proposal, he also offered space for feedback and collaboration. We are in agreement that the city will be more successful in partnership with others. We need direct interventions with the individuals and families affected by gun violence. Those best positioned to do this work are trusted community organizations.  Exactly what that community-based work looks like is still taking shape. We’re committed to working together to plan short and long-term actions that will result in real systems change. We’re making important progress. Together, we can prevent gun violence in the first place.”

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