PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For a month, there have been nightly protests in the streets of Portland, generally divided into two groups: a large, peaceful gathering urging systemic change and a much smaller group that engages in criminal activities.
In his first statement since on the protests since becoming the chief of the Portland Police Bureau, Chuck Lovell said the city “has observed several thousands gather and march throughout the City in an awesome statement of unity for transformational change.”
“Unfortunately,” he said, “there has been another group of several hundreds who have also gathered at a different location, but many of the group members have not engaged in lawful or constitutionally protected activities.”
He noted PPB has tried a variety of different de-escalation techniques to deal with the late-night protesters, and said dozens of law enforcement personnel have been injured along with some of the protesters.
“We are fortunate lives have not been lost despite the extremely hazardous events we have witnessed.”
These nightly, more violent protests, he said, “has significantly hampered” PPB’s responsibility to calls for service.
“Many nights our officers, or partner agency officers who are covering calls, are only able to handle emergency calls and other non-emergency calls for service have to be significantly delayed or handled another time,” he said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
Lovell noted there have been 6 homicides in 10 days. Shootings are up and there are ongoing issues with “domestic violence assaults, robberies, burglaries and traffic collisions.”
Handling the nightly demonstrations has cost PPB “more than $6.2 million at this time,” which does not include a number of other costs and expenses, he said.
“There may be those who will attempt to blame PPB for spending millions during a time when there are calls to cut the Police Bureau’s budget,” he said. “We saw what happened on May 29 when businesses were looted and burned; how many millions has our community lost financially as they have been trying to recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic? We cannot afford to not respond with public safety personnel during this critical time.”
Lovell said he’s spent time in the community listening and understands the desire for system change and accountability. He also noted officers and staff also need some time off.
“However, we know our work is not done and we must continue to meet the community’s expectations. To move forward, we must shift our focus and resources into productive collaboration and actions alongside the community,” he said.
“We cannot do this effectively if the nightly criminal acts and violence continue to pose instability and threat to our community and critical infrastructure.”