Daryl Turner, the president of the Portland police union, wrote us to share the following news story along with this note: “This news report, rather than the usual negative bashing we get from the media, shows that our citizens and the police are on the same page—we have too few officers in Portland to keep people safe and there has been a serious increase in crime because of that—in particular gang crime.”
As Gang Violence Rises, Where are the Police?
by Sara Roth, KGW.com Staff
Recent reports of excessive police force have dominated media headlines and inspired protests in Portland. “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” rallies have blocked city streets as Rose City residents decried the killings of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others. Witnesses across the country now whip out cellphones during arrests. As a result, police in some cities report feeling hesitant to act.
But in Portland neighborhoods where violence has spiked the most, both residents and police officers say those issues are nothing compared to the real problem: That there are not enough officers in the city to protect residents.
While Portland’s population has bloomed, the police force has wilted.
According to Daryl Turner, president of the Portland police union, Portland has far fewer officers per residents than it should. Even so, City Hall hasn’t committed to throwing any more money into the department, meaning that the problem will only get worse as police rush from call to call, working overtime and coming in on their days off to make up for the scrawny officer ranks.
“A lot of crimes are crimes of opportunity.”
“Since 2001 we’ve lost 150 positions,” Turner said. “We are one of the leanest police agencies of our size. We continue to decline in staffing at dangerous levels.”
That leaves neighborhoods that would otherwise be patrolled by police open to crime.
“A lot of crimes are crimes of opportunity,” he said. “People don’t see police, and they commit a crime.”
So far this year, there have been 79 gang-related incidents, according to Sgt. Pete Simpson, spokesman for Portland police. Most of those have been shootings. That puts 2015 on the fast track to becoming the worst year for gang violence in recent memory.