Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 27th, 2010 at 4:38 pm
With the passage of the budget yesterday, a rare opportunity for the Portland Police Bureau to add bike patrol officers has passed us by.
A proposal by the Police Bureau that surfaced back in January would have cut the PPB's Mounted (horse) Patrol Unit and transferred four of its officers to full-time bicycle detail covering the Old Town and downtown neighborhoods. The move would have saved the bureau about $570,000.
With the Police Bureau and the Office of Management and Finance supporting the cut of officers on horseback, Mayor Sam Adams included it in his initial budget proposal.
Both the PPB and OMF didn't want to cut the popular Mounted Patrol program, but they acknowledged that in this budget climate, it just didn't rate high enough as a core city priority to merit ongoing financial support. In their analysis of the PPB's budget, OMF wrote:
"Although the [mounted patrol] unit has value as a community policing and crowd control tool, it appears to be less important to bureau operations than most other specialty units."
Adams got a lot of media attention for his intentions to cut the horse-mounted officers (along with other cuts) and an effort was quickly launched by the non-profit Friends of the Mounted Patrol to save it. Among the high-profile supporters was Pearl District real estate developer Bob Ball (who incidentally was the first to raise questions about Adams' relationship with Beau Breedlove before the scandal broke last year). Ball told KATU News that the Friends group would give the city $100,000 to help meet the budget gap.
One week later, Adams released a "recalibration" of his budget. The new budget re-instated funding for the Mounted Patrol, listing $100,000 in one-time, "Private Support". The horses -- and their riders -- were saved.
The Mayor's spokesman Roy Kaufmann confirmed that while the Mounted Patrol was added back into the budget, the additional bicycle detail officers were not.
Police Chief Mike Reese, who was sworn in just days before the recalibrated budget was released, had this to say in a statement from the Mayor's office:
“Units like Mounted Patrol and Cold Case are what Portlanders want and expect out of their police bureau...”
Portlanders also want bike patrol officers. Back in 2007, former bike patrol officer Robert Pickett urged BikePortland readers to advocate for more of them and the Bureau itself honored Pickett and his partners from the Southeast Bike Patrol Unit for their "immeasurable impact on the community."
Given the positive impact and affordability of bike patrol officers, hopefully next time an opportunity like this arises, it will result in more of them on the streets.
In related news, the City's Office of Neighborhood Involvement has launched the first citizen Bike Patrol, the Police Bureau has enlisted citizens on bikes for the upcoming Grand Floral Parade, and even Multnomah County has gotten into the act and now has two parole officers on bikes.
UPDATE: According to Mayor Adams' Chief of Staff Tom Miller, new Police Chief Mike Reese offered a drastically different budget proposal to the Mayor than Reese's predecessor Rose Sizer. In his proposal, Chief Reese felt the MPU should not be cut, thereby also eliminating the option for the transfer of officers to bicycle detail. Miller also confirmed that in addition to the $100,000 in private funds to save the MPU, the remainder of the program is being paid for through the City's General Fund. At this time there are no plans to add additional bike patrol officers, but Miller speculates that given their support for community policing and a fully-staffed Police Bureau, it's possible we could hear announcements of new bike-mounted officers in the near future.