Wheeler says new GVRT in works as community calls for help

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Community members held a conference outside the Urban League of Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s been a little more than a month since Portland leaders agreed to defund the police bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team and now the mayor says he’s working on a new and improved model with the community’s help.

In the midst of nationwide protests for racial justice after the death of George Floyd, the GVRT came under fire for allegedly targeting members of the Black community.

On Thursday, KOIN 6 News learned Mayor Ted Wheeler intends to put together a new team to combat gun violence in Oregon’s largest city. Wheeler said the team could include members of the GVRT, who are still on the force but have been reassigned as patrol officers. The mayor said he’s working on a way to fund the new team and will discuss the details at a press conference as early as next week.

The Portland Police Bureau released new numbers this week, showing an uptick in homicides in the city. July 2020 saw 99 shootings compared to 35 in July 2019 in the City of Portland. Thirty-eight people were shot in total, with 34 of them being men. Of the 38 shot, 25 were African American, 4 were Hispanic and 9 were White.

Community members gathered Thursday to call on city leaders to do more to help stop gun-related violence. Retired Assistant Police Chief Kevin Modica gave a passionate speech, asking Mayor Wheeler and others to step up to help stop the violence.

“Do your job with the young people who are suffering,” Modica said.

“That you have partnerships, relationships, abilities and talents, we demand that you use them. Put them to work. And yes there will be accountability, we will be watching. We will be working with you,” he said.

Modica said he is not calling for the Gun Violence Reduction Team to be put back together, but rather to create a plan to use the funds from that service back into the community.

“Speciality units are the cake, the ice cream, the pudding, the cherry on top.”

After Modica spoke out, Kimberly Dixon, a mother and volunteer on the Crisis Response Team, also echoed Modica’s call out for the city to help with funding community efforts.

“We have a distribution issue of where you place the funds,” Dixon said.

“We might not need to bring GVRT back, but when you disbanded, what did you rebuild? What was your plan when you disbanded? And now you leave a fractionalized community out here who is left to care for the wounded, the hurting, the grieving,” Dixon said.

The mother of 22-year-old Jordan Lee Louis, who was shot and killed late last month in Northeast Portland, spoke out during the press conference.

“What I want is I want my son’s life to be remembered the way I remember him, the way I saw him,” she said.

The mother of a 2011 shooting victim also spoke out, decrying the violence. “There’s nothing nobody could have done to deserve to die like that,” she said.

PPB Chief Lovell also made remarks, saying that the Portland Police Bureau is dedicated to solving the crimes.

“We’re willing to do the things we have to do to make it stop,” Lovell said.

Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office announced the press conference on Wednesday but did not attend. He said the group would address the gun violence spike and strategize viable solutions.

The press conference was held outside the Urban League of Portland at 10 North Russell Street.’

Full video of press conference

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