PPB: Fewer tickets, more traffic deaths, not enough cops

Civic Affairs

City Council met with Portland police to discuss ways to reduce traffic deaths

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland has seen an increase in the number of traffic-related deaths but Portland police say they don’t have enough officers to keep city streets in check.

Forty-nine people were killed in 2019 in traffic-related incidents in Portland, according to the Bureau of Transportation. Many of the victims were pedestrians.

The Portland Police Bureau met with City Council on Tuesday to discuss ways to reduce traffic fatalities. The PPB told the council they’re writing fewer traffic tickets because they are shorthanded.

Just 19 officers are assigned to traffic and they are each required to spend one day a week handing calls inside the precinct to reduce overtime with so many officer positions currently unfilled.

The PPB had 47 traffic officers in 2011.

“This is a larger issue than just a choice to defund traffic to do something else,” said PPB Deputy Chief Chris Davis. “We’ve had to defund everything just to cope with demand in the police bureau.”

In April of 2019, there were 120 sworn officer vacancies in the Portland Police Bureau. And while dozens had applied for those jobs, only a fraction passed background checks.

In the wake of fewer officers on the streets, more tickets have been issued through the use of photo radar and red-light cameras. In 2019, 26,000 photo radar tickets and about 6,000 red-light camera citations were issued.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty questioned the bureau’s use of officers during Tuesday’s meeting.

“It’s clear to me that as we continue to deploy resources in very bizarre ways, that we really aren’t getting the best impact that we can for the limited officers we have,” she said.

Portland police said it hasn’t prioritized traffic safety as much as it should but plans on putting its traffic officers out on the streets fulltime.

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