PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Wednesday’s Portland City Council meeting got heated between Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell.
As Lovell was presenting a 2021 crime report to the Council, which included details such as the Portland Police Bureau is short officers as shootings continue to rise in the city, Wheeler responded in an aggressive manner.
“We can stop using the messaging at every turn that the reason we can’t help our citizens with basic criminal justice issues is because we don’t have the personnel. B******,” Wheeler said. “We have to find better ways to address this crisis.”
Wheeler then pointed to the unarmed public safety specialists as one of the ways he’d like to see the department both address staffing and innovative police practices.
The mayor also noted the fire bureau and emergency communications department are also understaffed.
“Our entire first responder system in this city, according to the people who run it, is 20 years behind the ball and critically understaffed and that is our number one responsibility to the people of this community — [it] is safety,” Wheeler said.
2021 saw 84 homicides, which was a 65% increase from 2020 and significantly higher than the 10-year average of 25 homicides, and more than 1,300 shootings, which was up 219% from 2020, according to the report Lovell was presenting on Wednesday.
Lovell was also explaining in the meeting how the bureau continues to have more than 200 fewer officers than in 2020.
He said the bureau’s recruitment is slowed down by the state-mandated training through the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, which he estimates turns out less than 700 officers statewide each year.
During Wednesday’s meeting, City Commissioner Dan Ryan asked whether training for Portland Police Bureau was something the city could take over, to which Lovell countered it came down to the budget.
“If their budget were bigger and their staffing were bigger, maybe they could get more people through the academy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wheeler said cuts may have to be made in other areas of the city in order to fund programs such as Portland Street Response and public safety specialists.
“We cannot be all things to all people all the time,” Wheeler said.