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A ‘cowardly move’: Vote on $18 million in police cuts delayed until after election

Posted by on October 29th, 2020 at 3:12 pm

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty at a rally in downtown Portland on July 17th, 2020.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been a wild 24 hours.

A flyer posted in the Boise-Eliot neighborhood for Hardesty’s “Rethink Portland” police reform initiative.

Months of fireworks on the streets during protests for racial justice and against police brutality led to fireworks at City Hall on Wednesday as members of City Council considered a proposal to cut $18 million from the Portland Police Bureau budget. A planned vote was delayed because Mayor Ted Wheeler and commissioners Amanda Fritz and Dan Ryan said they needed more time to digest it. And then around 1:00 pm on Thursday, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty – who spearheaded the budget proposal and pushed hard for a vote Wednesday — issued a scathing rebuke of Mayor Wheeler’s “failed” leadership and endorsed his challenger Sarah Iannarone just days before a very tight election.

Hardesty has worked for months to craft the cuts based on her Rethink Portland initiative and she formed a united front with fellow Commissioner Chloe Eudaly in support of them. But on a five-member council, this progressive duo needed to become a trio to enact the changes. With the election on Tuesday, they wanted a vote before the next meeting. With Wheeler and Fritz voting as a block against significant police reform, it all came down to untested Commissioner Dan Ryan who’s only been in office since September 10th after winning a special election in August to replace the late Nick Fish.

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The 5 tenets of Hardesty’s proposal.

Hardesty and Eudaly worked more like activists than politicians in the past week, urging people to contact the three other commissioners. Cutting $18 million from the police budget after $15 million in cuts back in June is a big deal and tension around the vote was high. 165 people testified and the majority of them strongly supported the move.

“I don’t want to be rushed right now.”
— Dan Ryan, city commissioner

I’m sharing this on BikePortland because the police budget matters to everyone who uses Portland streets — especially people of color, vulnerable and marginalized road users like bicycle riders, and those who use streets to exercise their constitutional right to protest. Traffic stops are the most common way most people interact with police and we’ve watched for years as PPB officers have used traffic law-related justifications to forcibly — and too often violently — remove law-abiding citizens from streets and other public spaces.

While transportation-specific policing issues haven’t garnered much attention in Portland yet, the cuts and reforms being proposed by Hardesty and Eudaly (who happens to be in charge of the transportation bureau) will inevitably lead us there.

In a memo from Hardesty to her colleagues on October 19th detailing the proposal, she described her vision for, “A Portland where a reduced police force is focused solely on solving crime, where crime is addressed through a public health lens, and where we make reinvestments in community and police alternatives to provide support and de‐escalated responses to those in need of assistance.” The biggest line item in the cuts, over $7 million, would eliminate the 42 officer positions left empty by recent retirements. Other elements include an elimination of overtime and reduction of funding for military-grade munitions. Hardesty wants to use money saved in PPB cuts to support “our most vulnerable community members, creating alternatives to police, and setting aside funds in contingency to help mitigate any potential cuts.”

When it came time to take a stand and vote for the proposal, Commissioner Fritz said she was “exhausted” and needed more information, Wheeler said he wanted more analysis of the potential impacts of the cuts, and Ryan simply said he needed more time. “I don’t want to be rushed right now,” Ryan said. “And I also reflecting on what happened in the US Senate this week. I think most supporters would agree on the fact that they’ve made a rushed vote on a Supreme Court justice a week before the election, so why would I want to be a part of a government that does that?”

When it became clear there would be no vote yesterday, Hardesty did not hide her disappointment:

“I am disappointed that we didn’t do our job tonight. People have been taking into the street, every night for 156 days. It is shocking that my city council colleagues don’t know why people are taking to the street. I wish I could have actually fulfilled the public’s request and cut the full 35 million, but that would not have been a responsible move. Commissioner Eudaly and I worked very hard to make sure that the cuts that we were proposing would not impact the staffing levels of Portland Police Bureau, nor would it have an impact on the DOJ settlement agreement. This didn’t come out of nowhere. And each of you have had many opportunities to ask questions on my amendments, all of you have had an opportunity to push back.

I see it as a very cowardly move to be trying to put this vote off until after the election, because that’s exactly what it is.

I am a bit disgusted tonight with the lack of courage of this council… I am really disappointed in you colleagues. We had the opportunity to show the public that not only are we being responsible; but we’re actually listening to the people who night after night after night are telling us what they need. What it cowardly way to end, what has been a very brilliant afternoon of testimony.”

Hardesty’s proposal will be back at City Hall for a possible vote on Thursday November 5th at 2:00 pm.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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SD
Guest
SD

Classic Wheeler- complain how hard it is to make substantial changes, but do nothing when the opportunity is at hand.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Unrelated question, but is there a substantial deficit in the current overall city budget in terms of general funding?

Also, if everyone in Oregon votes by mail anyway, hasn’t everyone who is going to vote at all already sent in their vote? I mean, here in NC we have polls open in every precinct on election day, but we also have absentee voting and early poll voting. But hasn’t Oregon long ago closed all its voting booths? So if it’s all by mail, haven’t most votes already been submitted? So what decernable difference will Hardesty’s last-minute endorsement of Iannarone make in the election?

Maddy
Subscriber
Maddy

I really respect Jo Ann, but the election is in only 5 days. I’m really worried about the Proud Boys and their friends getting more violent if Trump loses. Waiting to restructure the police until after the election may be smart.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

we’ve watched for years as PPB officers have used traffic law-related justifications to forcibly — and too often violently — remove law-abiding citizens from streets and other public spaces.

You are referring, I hope, to pretext stops where a traffic infraction is an excuse to top a vehicle because something looks “suspicious”, not the ordinary traffic enforcement activity conducted by the traffic division that keep things from being even more Mad Max than they are.

One
Guest

JoAnn Hardesty, Chloe Eudaly, and Sarah Iannarone are on the right side of history. Fukc Ted Wheeler. And so very disappointed in Dan Ryan.

maxD
Guest
maxD

The the memo Hardesty sent on Oct 19: “…Hardesty wants to use money saved in PPB cuts to support “our most vulnerable community members, creating alternatives to police, and setting aside funds in contingency to help mitigate any potential cuts.”

What does it mean to use the money to support the most vulnerable community members? What are the alternatives to the police? I got a post from the police chief on FB saying in part “The PPB welcomes ongoing, thoughtful, evidence-based reforms and would like to be a part of these discussions. Once appropriate structures are in place, we completely agree that there are situations where police response may not be the best way to serve the community. …I support thoroughly researched, data-driven proposals to improve public safety. This is a conversation worth having, but not a conversation worth rushing. I hope we take the time needed to ensure that any decisions result in the public safety outcomes we all seek.”

I realize that trust in PPB is at an all-time low, but what is the replacement model? I would like to see something in place to before we stat dismantling the PPB. I suspect it will take long time to create a community response division- it will need a budget and official positions to be filled, etc. I realize things are bad out there now for many people, but there is a real potential things could get worse without adequate means to respond to emergencies. I support waiting until a replacement structure is fully developed and adopted

drs
Guest
drs

I have been appalled by videos that have been posted of police being overly aggressive and using excessive force in response to protests. Officers need to be held accountable. We need to change laws that shield officers from prosecutions when they commit crimes and renegotiate police union contract provisions that prevent officers from being punished when they step out of line. But I don’t agree with Hardesty’s proposed solutions.

I strongly support the idea of creating a group of unarmed city employees that can serve many of the functions of the police. I could even imagine that the majority of officers that are currently walking around with lethal weapons could be replaced with unarmed people who are backed up by a smaller force of armed officers. But I think we have way too few people enforcing traffic laws and providing security on public transit. I see people flagrantly violating traffic laws with impunity on a daily basis, and I hardly see any officers on the street who could do anything about it. I do not support any proposal that would slash $18 Million from the police budget without first hiring and training a group of people that are ready to take on the responsibility of enforcing laws on day one.

I voted for Mayor Wheeler because I think that Iannarone’s positions on homelessness and police funding are unrealistic and unworkable. I think she has a lot of great ideas on transportation and land use that I would like to support. I have been greatly disappointed with Wheeler’s leadership in many ways. But I don’t think Iannarone or Hardesty’s policies on these issues are going to move us in the right direction.

Also, what does Hardesty think will happen if we completely eliminate overtime for police officers? Is there going to be zero police presence at nightly protests? What happens when 700 proud boys flood into downtown on a weekend, as they do from time to time? Do we just let them break skulls because we want to make a symbolic gesture by cutting the police budget?

Laura
Guest
Laura

Nope, nope, and…nope.
A question was asked if the cuts can be made without layoffs. Hardesty could not answer, nor could staff. That’s the hold up. PPB is seriously understaffed.

As an example. Last weekend, a young person who “lived to drift” was fatally shot at SE 48th and Division. (I don’t know the circumstances but heard at least 5 shots fired) Police were delayed in responding. Every night since, people on foot, bikes, in homes, and in cars are threatened by noise and vehicles of the vicitms friends “paying respect” by drifting and stunting at the site. No police response is available.

Yes! Reform is needed, but there is still a basic service level needed to deal with situations occurring and those being investigated.

Sam N
Guest
Sam N

The conflict over Hardesty and Eudaly’s proposal seems more procedural than substantive. In essence, all 3 councilors who weren’t in the weeds on developing the proposal are asking for more information and more time. I’m curious how long they had, in advance of their Zoom meeting, to review the substance of the proposal? That might shed some light on how much this is politicking before the election (which could change the makeup of the council) and how much this is a legitimate desire to be thoughtful and deliberate about a serious structural reform.

Safety Boy
Guest
Safety Boy

How would these cuts impact traffic enforcement? Would that be completely eliminated?

Matt
Guest
Matt

Hardesty is a hypocrite. Does her protection get cut?

Javier Sodo
Guest
Javier Sodo

REPLY FROM CHIEF LOVELL:
A budget amendment presented to the City Council proposes to cut an additional $18 million from the Portland Police Bureau’s budget. I believe these cuts will be detrimental to the safety of our community members and visitors to the City of Portland and dramatically impact the livability of our neighborhoods. The PPB welcomes ongoing, thoughtful, evidence-based reforms and would like to be a part of these discussions. Once appropriate structures are in place, we completely agree that there are situations where police response may not be the best way to serve the community. I look forward to participating in the ongoing conversation about the best ways to provide public safety.

Council reduced the Police Bureau’s budget by $26 million this spring. An additional cut of $18 million would require significant layoffs and affect the Police Bureau’s ability to respond to 911 calls. These layoffs would directly impact the most junior members of the organization, who have been successfully recruited as the most diverse hires in the history of the organization, as well as numerous professional non-sworn staff.

The Bureau would have to eliminate programs that provide necessary services which have been developed through years of collaboration with professional partners and input from the community. These include the:
* Behavioral Health Unit and Service Coordination Team works proactively with people with mental illness and multiple or high risk contacts with police. They also provide a gateway to services that help people find housing, get sober, seek work and get out of the criminal justice system.
* Community Engagement Unit builds relationships with the community, particularly people of color, to establish trust and build mutual understanding with the goal of reducing violence and police enforcement action.
* Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit disrupts and dismantles high-level drug trafficking organizations. It also follows up on opioid deaths and investigates illegal drugs affecting neighborhood livability.
* Air Support Unit supports police services by air which helps patrol officers apprehend suspects in a safe and effective manner.
* Traffic Division investigates traffic fatalities and attempts to reduce crashes through traffic law enforcement.
* Emergency Management Unit plans for city-wide responses to emergencies, including natural disasters.
* Neighborhood Response Teams assist neighbors with community livability matters and reduce the need for continued police response to issues that can be addressed in other ways.
* Criminal Intelligence Unit provides investigative support for cases involving threats to commit acts of mass and/or targeted violence, violent extremism, domestic and international terrorism, organized crime, and special investigative projects. Additionally, CIU conducts investigative threat assessments for major events, dignitary visits, and investigates threats to businesses, community groups, critical infrastructure, and individuals — including stalking behaviors — for members of the public, public officials and other high-profile people.
* K9 Unit uses highly trained canines to provide support to safely apprehend wanted suspects, which lowers risk to the community and to officers.

In addition, the proposed budget reductions also will reduce training and diversity initiatives, increase response times, slow investigations, and challenge the Police Bureau’s ability to meet our community’s expectations and needs.

The Department of Justice, in the 2012 Settlement Agreement with the City, said the Police Bureau was a “lean organization.” We have fewer officers now and a population which has grown dramatically. The DOJ agreement also said, “The City shall be responsible for providing necessary support and resources to enable the Portland Police Bureau to fulfill its obligations under this Agreement. The improvements outlined in this Agreement will require the dedication of additional funds and personnel.”

I support thoroughly researched, data-driven proposals to improve public safety. This is a conversation worth having, but not a conversation worth rushing. I hope we take the time needed to ensure that any decisions result in the public safety outcomes we all seek.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Instead of cutting their budget how about increasing it for more training? I have to believe there is a need for police but they are undertrained for certain interactions with the public . Weed out the bad apples and train the hell out of the good ones

maxD
Guest
maxD

I am so deeply disappointed that Commissioner Hardesty responded to her colleagues wanting to be cautious and informed when dealing with our City’s security by publicly shaming them and saying she was disgusted and calling them cowards. Who want to work with her after that? It is so unproductive and unprofessional. What happened to civility and discourse? I hear the same rhetoric from Innarone- divisive, inflammatory and mean-spirited. I was very hopeful that Hardesty could provide leadership on the issue of Police reform, but this does not look like leadership to me. This is posturing and bullying instead of collaborating and educating.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I think it is a great move to delay until after the election. You can bet that if this had passed, Trump would have commented on it 1000 times before next Tuesday as proof that Democrats are turning over the country to rioters. Action this week could conceivably sway some voters in swing states. Terrible stuff has been happening for years, a one-week delay is unfortunate, but even a miniscule risk of it benefitting Trump is not worth it.

Merlin
Guest
Merlin

I was disappointed to see this headline and even more disappointed to read the article and the comments. Is this what “bikeportland” has become? I hardly see the direct correlation to “biking”. I’ll likely keep checking this website for CYCLING information and will stop reading and/or getting upset about purely political posts.

oliver
Guest
oliver

I think leadership understands that if they vote to reduce the PPB budget now, there will be an outbreak of the blue flu come election day.

Which will give the bad cops the opportunity to report to the III% sh**head units they drill with in their free time.