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UPDATED – City budget passes, along with chance for more bike patrol officers

Posted by on May 27th, 2010 at 4:38 pm

PPB Mounted Patrol Unit-1
Horse mounted cops survived budget
process, bike mounted cops didn’t.
(Photo © J. Maus)

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.”

On a bike-along in SE Precinct
Members of the (now defunct)
SE Bike Patrol Unit.

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.

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Comments
  • jim May 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    It would have been a big mistake to cut the mounted patrol. With all of the cuts I don’t see adding more bike patrols

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  • 9watts May 27, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I can’t say I understand why the ‘popularity’ of the horse cops makes a difference one way or the other, though offering $100,000 obviously did. The day will come when the fossil fueled cops get the axe and they all ride horses and bikes (again).
    I wonder if you (Jonathan) could ascertain what a cop on a bike, a horse, and in a cruiser costs us? I realize they do different things (now) but nevertheless it would be interesting to know how these three versions stack up. It isn’t too often we encounter opportunities to compare costs like this.

    Do we need a “Friends of the Pedal Patrol”?

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  • Anne Hawley May 27, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Like streetcars, the mounted patrol seems to have more value as a tourist attraction and PR tool than as an actual service to Portlanders.

    Interesting that both are boons to the Pearl District and have zero impact on family neighborhoods.

    I’d be all for drumming up the tourist bucks (because tourists, too, have little impact on family neighborhoods), except for that pesky lack of sales tax to pay for the pretty horsies and the cute streetcars.

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  • Case May 27, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    My favorite part about the Mounted Patrol, the “evidence” they leave concerning their recent whereabouts. Never really understood why that’s acceptable.

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  • Marcus Griffith May 27, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    How unbiased will mounted patrols be in the Peal district if the Peal is essentially paying their wages? Did the mounted patrol just become the newest tool the privately owned Clean and Safe militant security force?

    The city should just put the police force up for auction–If the public is going to get screwed, the city might as well do for the highest bidder.

    Next time there is a police mishap, guess I will have to take up with the Better Business Bureau as a customer service issue.

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  • The Translator May 27, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    How y’all liking Sammy now? Want to take bets that he’ll gut the Bike Master Plan or use those promised sewer funds to pander for needed votes in 2012? I smell a pro-business / anti-bike PDC hatched scheme coming this way!

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  • chasingbackon May 27, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    So Jim,
    why is cutting the horse patrol a big mistake?

    I never see them and the money could be redistributed to provide bike mounted cops meaning more overall coverage. Seems to make great sense actually.

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  • hypocritical May 27, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    They kill a man for peeing on the street but these horses leave their feces throughout the city… Sam go ask ball for more money so they can put some diapers on those things.

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  • Refunk May 27, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Why restore the horses and discontinue bikes? With all due respect to Officer Pickett (I have met him, nice guy), it may not be about effective budget usage in terms of the better, more efficient distribution of officers on bikes.

    Picture yerself present at a riotous event, replete with noise, crowds, calamity & conflict. Now, what would you find more intimidating?

    A cop wheeling his bike around in the crowd?

    or

    A mounted officer wheeling his horse around at the crowd?

    Wish there was money for both (I like the horses, however, would prefer the bikes), but y’know, the cops may be using more criteria than just the temporary private donation in their decisions.

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  • dan May 28, 2010 at 12:37 am

    I like bikes, but is there a case for cops on bikes being more effective, dollar for dollar, than mounted, in a car, or on foot? I want them to spend the police budget in the most efficient way possible…whatever that is. I am pretty sure that it’s not mounted cops though.

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  • Paul Tay May 28, 2010 at 4:49 am

    Who scoops da poop?

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  • Al from PA May 28, 2010 at 4:56 am

    I’ve seen mounted police in New Haven CT, New York, and, in a big way (complete with shining gold helmets) in Paris. I never could figure out what they were supposed to be doing. The Paris guard was at least pretty to look at, and kind of resonant if you remember the history of Parisian insurrections. If intimidation of a rioting crowd (“crowd control”) is the purpose, it all seems rather nebulous. Are there often riots in Portland? And how can one guarantee that the crowd will always be intimidated? Horses are, after all, quite vulnerable (to needles, other weapons) when things get really violent. You didn’t see many of those spectacular guards at the height of the May 68 rioting in Paris.

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  • Topher May 28, 2010 at 5:28 am

    I think the cops on horses are stupidly insulting; they’re a huge waste of money and are so NOT THIS CITY. Sell the horses, put the cops on bikes, and let those slow officers pedal, rather than ride, their lazy asses into being fit policemen.

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  • Marcus Griffith May 28, 2010 at 7:55 am

    The Translator (#6): I am sure Sam Adams will honor his pro-bike agenda and the use of sewer fees for bike blvds. Its not like Sam the Tram has ever lied to the public before or betrayed those that trusted him… well at least not this week.

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  • Elliot May 28, 2010 at 8:16 am

    I don’t understand the ethics allowing private donations to influence government programs.

    If we donate $100,000 to the Portland Police Bureau, can they guarantee us they’ll use all of it on traffic enforcement for motorists making illegal passing movements of bicyclists?

    Sounds like bribery.

    If Ball wants to continue to see horses downtown, he should buy a carriage company.

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  • Vance Longwell May 28, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Yup, you don’t understand it therefore it is wrong. Hypocrites.

    The mounted patrol is a tradition in Portland. We used to have a lot of those. Part of what made Portland a city you all just HAD to move to.

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  • dan May 28, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Elliot (#15), I would definitely donate to a police position doing full-time bicycle safety enforcement. Let’s ring up Sam and see if our money is as good as Ball’s!

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  • Peter Noone May 28, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Vance/16

    Lots of places had/have a mounted patrol. It’s really not one of the defining characteristics of Portland.

    Also, “appeal to tradition” is a fallacy. Societies can and should evolve.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 28, 2010 at 11:14 am

      I just spoke with Mayor Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller and published this update to the story:

      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.

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  • Elliot May 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Vance,

    I don’t understand it, other folks don’t understand it, and it’s not a normal occurrence, therefore I’d like our city leaders to explain to the public how this use of private donations is acceptable.

    A mounted patrol is a “tradition” in a lot of cities; it’s definitely not unique to Portland. They’ve been on the decline because they’re as applicable to modern police work and they’ve been kept around mostly for appearances and sentimentality. Should city budgets be sentimental?

    And for the record, my great-great-grandfather watered his horse at the fountain with the elk statue on Madison between 3rd and 4th Avenues downtown, and my wife co-founded a horse rescue non-profit. Sorry I broke your stereotype.

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  • jim May 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    It seams like most people on bike portland blog are generally against the police allmost all of the time, why are you now wanting MORE bicycle police if you are so dead set against portland police?

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  • Elliot May 28, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    #20, second paragraph above should read “they’re not as applicable to modern police work”.

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  • JE May 28, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    The Police Bureau maybe fully staffed when in comes to officers, but the budget cuts the non-sworn (civilian) staff that supports those officers. Therefore officers will have to be moved off the streets to desk jobs, and patrol officers will need to spend more of their on-duty time doing their own paperwork.

    The City has effectively reduced the number of PPB officers on the street. The City has not maintained community policing, it has crippled it.

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  • MIndful Cyclist May 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Jim (#21): I get upset at some of the behaviors of the police. I do not hate the police in general and I think that is probably the sentiment of many of the people on here.

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  • wsbob May 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    The Mounted Patrol has quite the citizen advocacy group supporting it. Maus provided a link to its Facebook site in his article above. The group say it has 1200 members. Back in April of this year, an Oregonian article on the MPU’s funding challenges, featured some info on the Friends of the MPU’s efforts to keep cops on horses.

    Friends of Portland’s mounted patrol lobby to save it from budget cuts
    By Steve Beaven, The Oregonian, March 31, 2010, 7:31PM

    That story explains that the Friends of the MPU has been involved in long term efforts to support the MPU since the founding of the group in 1985. That article states the group spends about $25,000/yr to “…aid the group…”.

    Does the Portland Police Departments’ Bike Patrol have any citizen support group established that works to support it in ways that approach what the Friends of the Mounted Patrol is doing for the group it supports?

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  • Loren May 31, 2010 at 8:25 am

    We could have saved $570,000, but thanks to a donation, we spent $470,000?

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  • jim June 1, 2010 at 12:07 am

    I think we could cut down on Sam Adams staff and save a ton of $$. get rid of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum for an example. I hear it costs us 70K plus benifits for the Tweeting staff. What do the rest of the staff do? Plan more speedbumps??

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