PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler tweeted Tuesday that “society must put an end to this culture of violence.”
Wheeler, who also held a community meeting to address the city’s budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, said, “Shootings in Portland and other cities have become a regular part of news cycles, but this violence and the loss cannot be normalized. There is nothing normal about resolving interpersonal conflict with a gun. We as a society must put an end to this culture of violence.”
But in the new budget proposal there are no new positions created for PPB patrol officers. Chief Chuck Lovell asked for more than 60 of those positions.
The mayor’s proposed budget does include more public safety specialists — the non-sworn officers who reply to non-emergency calls.
And he reiterated the importance of the Community Safety Team and the Focused Intervention Team.
“The Community Safety Team of 22 officers, sergeants, lieutenants, focused on investigation and follow-up,” he said. “We funded and created the Focused Intervention Team. … This budget makes significant steps in the community to go along those investments.”
His tweet about gun violence was in response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas last week. He calls for stricter regulations around guns to reverse a trend of rising gun violence across the country.
But for what he can control, Wheeler believes his budget for the next fiscal year is the right approach.
“As an elected official I have an obligation to invest in community-based intervention and prevention strategies. I have an obligation to invest in policing,” the mayor said. “I have an obligation to make sure that our community partners, whether it’s the district attorney or others, are doing their part to hold people who engage in this activity accountable.”
Wheeler tried to increase the PPB budget last year but the rest of the City Council did not agree.
The mayor noted a few weeks ago that hiring police officers has been a challenge for the bureau. That’s where public safety specialists can help with patrol officers’ workload on non-emergency priorities.
Wheeler has 4 priority areas for the 2022-23 fiscal year: Community safety, livability, homelessness and economic recovery. The meeting Tuesday focused on making Portland’s city center livable and workable again.
“The city has to be clean. It has to be litter free. It has to be graffiti free. We have to show we are making a committment to getting people off the streets quickly and humanely,” Wheeler said.
That money came in the Fall Budget Update with more money to the Impact Reduction Program. More than 30 homeless camps have been removed every week since April.
“A key part of recovery is giving people the confidence that if they go to the central city it will be clean, it will be safe, it will be activated in a way they have a positive experiences so we have an opportunity here,” he said.
The budget plans will be voted on June 17.