Ex-Park Ranger: No leadership in Portland over gun violence

Crime

Park Rangers' vehicle struck by gunfire Monday night

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For 7 seasons, Sam Sachs worked as a Portland Park Ranger and also served as the city’s Human Rights Commissioner from 2013 to 2015.

He spoke with KOIN 6 News a day after two park rangers were inside their city truck on SE 72nd near Woodstock when two bullets hit the side of the truck, one of which was very close to the driver’s door.

Another round pierced the windshield of a different car, narrowly missing the woman behind the wheel. The park rangers stopped to help the woman and called 911.

“In my eyes, they’re heroes and they should be acknowledged for that,” Sachs said.

Investigators at the scene found 26 bullet casings in the area. No arrests have been made at this time.

“I can tell you they’re great men, they’re fathers. I heard that they stayed at the scene and offered comfort to the other victim,” Sachs said. “These two men are city employees. These two men, like many other people that have been victims of gun violence, are community members, are citizens that deserve better.”

Sam Sachs runs The No Hate Zone, a non-profit that promotes racial justice, September 14, 2021 (KOIN)

Sachs runs The No Hate Zone, a non-profit that promotes racial justice. He’s been an outspoken critic of Mayor Ted Wheeler and the city commissioners’ response to the escalating gun violence in Portland.

“It’s not what I’m seeing in the city,” Sachs said. “There’s no leadership. There’s absolutely no leadership and it’s, it’s just crazy to me.”

In April 2021, the Portland City Council approved more than $1 million to invest in the park rangers as part of the city’s gun violence reduction plan. But there hasn’t been a plan that lays out how leaders expect that to work.

KOIN 6 News asked officials with Portland Parks and Recreation several questions about the plan, including specific training and equipment that rangers have to deal with gun violence, plus whether the park rangers are being issued bulletproof vests. At this time, no one with Parks & Rec has responded.

KOIN 6 News also reached out to their union with similar questions and has yet to hear back.

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Commissioner Carmen Rubio said she’s concerned about the park rangers and grateful no one was hurt.

“I supported, and continue to support and advocate for, expanding Portland Street Response. I also continue to request more information from PPB about the bureau’s staffing and resource needs so that, as an elected representative, I can ensure we’re making smart, effective investments to keep communities safe,” Rubio said.

She added she’s “committed to working with my colleagues to achieve a transparent, accountable system that is capable, responsive and keeps our community safe.”

“We need a plan from city council,” Sachs said. “They have never had a plan since they got rid of the gun violence reduction team over a year ago. There is no plan.”

Commissioner Mingus Mapps said in a statement that city leadership has a responsibility to keep public employees safe.

“What happened to our Parks employees the other night is unacceptable and symptomatic of a much larger problem which is gun violence,” Mapps said.

He called for more resources to be given to the Portland Police Bureau.

“That is exacerbating this crisis,” Mapps said. “We need sensible reform like body cameras and (to) adequately staff and fund the Portland Police Bureau.”

In another statement, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said the city encourages feedback from public employees on what they need to get their jobs done. She said leadership is planning to discuss ways to mitigate gun violence.

“The increased gun violence Portland is seeing as part of a national trend continues to be alarming,” Hardesty said. “I know I continue to seek solutions and I’ll be focused on a data informed, public health approach that takes on the root causes of gun violence. While we have taken action as a City, there is more to do.”

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