PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland City Council members will soon decide whether the city will slash $18 million from the police budget.
Earlier this year, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty joined with Mayor Ted Wheeler to spearhead cuts to the Portland police budget of $15 million. Now Hardesty and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly are pushing for another $18 million in cuts. Dozens of people voiced their opinions on the proposal at a council meeting last week. The meeting stretched on for hours, necessitating a postponement of a vote. City Council is expected to decide on the proposal Thursday.
The newest president of the Portland Police Association, Brian Hunzeker, believes cutting millions more from the police budget will be dangerous for a city that has seen a historic spike in crime in recent months.
Hunzeker is a 20-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau. He replaced Daryl Turner as PPA president when Turner’s term ended last week. Hunzeker said he believes in police reform but also believes that defunding the PPB isn’t the right way to do it.
“If you look at the stats, gun violence since July — 186% increase in the month of July; 195% in August; September 280% increase; as of October, we were up 111%,” Hunzeker said.
The Portland Police Bureau is already short on officers and the PPA projects they’ll be forced to cut another 120 officers and 30 civilian staffers if city commissioners vote to defund the police budget by another $18 million.
“If you divide the city up into three sections, we have Central Precinct downtown, North Precinct in North Portland and East Precinct — three separate precincts,” said Hunzeker. “If you layoff 120 officers, you wipe out an entire precinct, so one-third of the city goes without. Is that what we want?”
Hunzeker cautioned city residents to think about their safety.
“It’s not just the fact that those officers are going to lose their way of life—the real victims in this loss are the crime victims,” he said.
The PPB operates with one of the second-smallest police budgets among larger U.S. cities, according to the police union. Portland police receives 4.1% of the city’s $5.6 billion budget.
“If you continue to take away from the police budget, not only are you going to have significant layoffs in the police bureau, you’re going to have significant negative impacts to our community and every police officer in this city wants to be apart of this community wants to make the community better as a whole,” said Hunzeker. “Every part of our being as an association and every part of our being as a police officer to the oath we have sworn, we want to be there for you and by taking more from us will do nothing but hurt the citizens of this community when they’re affected negatively by crime.”
The Portland City Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on Nov. 5.