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Portland Police Association says tragic traffic toll with continue “without proactive enforcement”

Posted by on February 22nd, 2021 at 1:07 pm

The president of the labor union that represents most of the Portland Police Bureau’s rank-and-file officers made a statement earlier this month warning people that a recent personnel shift by Police Chief Chuck Lovell would lead to dangerous conditions on our streets. I just realized today that that person – PPA President Brian Hunzeker — used an opinion piece he read on BikePortland to support his case.

In a Facebook post on February 9th, Hunzeker wrote:

“Five days ago, the Traffic Division—charged with the specific duties of traffic enforcement, serious injury collision investigation, fatal collision investigations, DUII enforcement, traffic complaints, and major traffic crime investigations—was reassigned to precinct patrol leaving a dramatic gap in proactive traffic enforcement. Having served 14 years in the Traffic Division team, I knew this move would negatively affect safety on our roadways and we’ve already seen 4 fatal crashes in just the past 5 days. It’s just common sense that a city our size needs an active and dedicated traffic enforcement unit.

We have traffic laws and issue citations to improve unsafe driving and to provide education to bad drivers—to make the roads safer for everyone and prevent injury and death. Without proactive enforcement and driver accountability, I fear we will see an increase in vehicle, bike, and pedestrian injuries and fatalities. I hope I’m wrong.”

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Hunzeker then shared the link, a quote and photos from my opinion piece about a rise in traffic violence that was published one day prior.

Hunzeker’s statement is based on a move back in December by Chief Lovell to re-assign officers away from the Traffic Division (a specialty unit that writes the vast majority of Portland traffic tickets) to more general patrol positions.

In my interview with PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty on Friday, she called Hunzeker’s position a “very destructive narrative”. “I want to be clear that any police officer has the ability to write a ticket for traffic infractions,” Hardesty said. “They are all qualified to hold people accountable for illegally using our streets.”

The PPA’s position is a continuation of a narrative they established with the PPB back in October when they opposed attempts by Hardesty to reduce the police budget by $18 million and warned, “The elimination of the Traffic Division, resulting in the lost enforcement of traffic laws, deterrence of bad driving that can have deadly consequences.”

Portland lawyer Mark Ginsberg with Berkshire Ginsberg LLC* said, “That narrative is bunk.”

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Ginsberg believes the dissolution of the Traffic Division was a bad idea. “It’s kind of a worst-case scenario for all the officers. Officers who want to do traffic are being told they have to do other duties, plus traffic. And officers who don’t want to do traffic are now being told, they have to do traffic plus their regular duties.”

(Source: City of Portland budget documents/Kat McKelvey)

“I think it will have negative outcomes in that we’ll see less active enforcement and we’re going to see a lot of officers moved off of their motorcycles,” Ginsberg added. Motorcycles are often used by Traffic Division officers, many of whom have had to park them and hop into SUVs and other patrol vehicles with their new assignments. This impacts traffic-related enforcement because motorcycles are much more maneuverable in congested areas and they give officers a much clearer view of driver behavior — which is especially important for infractions like distracted driving where an officer must be able to see what someone is doing with their hands in order to ensure the ticket isn’t dismissed in court.

Ginsberg says the issue of officer morale and personnel shortages at PPB in general are not a good thing; but he’s quick to point out that the situation is of the PPB’s own making.

“The Portland Police Bureau, up until recently was getting $10 million more per year [in budget increases] for the last five years. Portland takes an entire year to hire officers, where other places take months… There’s no question there’s a shortage of officers, but the shortage is very much PPB and PPA’s responsibility.”

(*Berkshire Ginsberg is a financial supporter of BikePortland.)

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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cmh89
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cmh89

“local gang says violence will continue until the appropriate bribes have been paid”

Steve Scarich
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Steve Scarich

I’m not sure how Ginsberg defines ‘hiring’, does he mean from the day a recruit first applies until the day he is put on the street? or what? There are so many variables in here, interviews, checking recommendations, drug testing back-ground checks, mandated training, etc etc that his statement is kind of meaningless without more detail. I know that PPB has had a very difficult time filling openings; one factoid that I recall is an amazingly high rate of failed drug tests or drug histories.

Bikeninja
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Bikeninja

We have to ask ourselves if this is some kind of special situation with regards to the current police department, or current city administration or there some kind of long term trend here we are not talking about. We seem to think about problems like this like the guy who fell out of the tree, and is worrying about each of the gashes he gets on the way down as he hits the branches. We are fixating on what type of band-aid to use, or what ointment is best, or who is most qualified to put the band-aid on. Instead we should be asking why he fell out of the tree and how to avoid hitting the ground eventually.

Champs
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Champs

PPA isn’t wrong to protect its members, but when that’s above all else it comes at the price of their credibility.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf ultimately told the truth.

David Hampsten
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David Hampsten

Why work in Portland as a police officer when there are so many other communities that not only pay more per cost of living, but are more welcoming of the officers they do have?

Doug Hecker
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Doug Hecker

People complain about deaths and then continue to assume that road diets and changes are somehow solely going to change behaviors. I’m not sure that idea is working.

A friend of mine who is from the BIPOC community didn’t make the cut for PPB after devoting a year of his life to them. Somehow he lucked out and was quickly hired by the State Patrol. Not sure how to take that information but it happened despite Portland’s inclusive ideas. Also, PPB recruits in Idaho because no one is crazy enough locally to want to deal with what portland has to offer. Do you really want out of staters on our force? I sure don’t.

Also, without any fear of a ticket people will do what they please. Who does that benefit? Why does Portland continually rank amongst the highest in poor driving year after year? Piss poor enforcement. Pbot came out to my neighborhood and tossed out a 20mph sign the other day, I think all it did was make people drive faster.

Want better biking conditions? Find better drivers.

rick
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rick

I’d love more enforcement.

Steve C
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Steve C

Are there any comparisons to similar sized cities in terms of budget and number of officers?

A quick check of city population (~650k) and density (~4.8k/sq mi) brings up Denver and Detroit. Both have considerably more officers 1500 and 2200 respectively vs 884? for Portland. But the budgets don’t scale at the same rate ($250m for Denver and $330m for Detroit vs Portland’s $230m). And the pay doesn’t seem that different, Denver’s police officer salary starts at 64k and goes to 94k, as opposed to 68k to 98k here in Portland.

Portland has budgeted $260k per sworn officer vs $150k for Detroit and $166k for Denver. Is there something missing here? Are there a higher percentage of administrators and non-officer employees in Portland?

Not arguing for or against any change. Just wanting to understand budget and force allocation issues.

Joblow@gmail.com
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Joblow@gmail.com

Ever since the Corona virus started and there has been next to no police in the area of Portland I live in(I won’t say where to protect my taste of freedom and heaven), I have enjoyed how great life is again (like in my childhood) without the threat of violence, or being detained, or having new laws come up at their and/or the corrupt politicians they influencer and work with for personal profit or gane, making my and my loved ones life a living hell. F the po po.

Nik G
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Nik G

Enforcement is only necessary because of how Portland’s roads have been designed. Speed of automobile traffic has for years been the priority at the expense of safety and viability of other transit. This is thankfully beginning to change with projects like the Lombard lane reduction but it can’t come soon enough.

Matc
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Matc

Take a look at The Netherlands. If a car hits a bicyclist, the car driver is guilty unless they can prove otherwise.

Jamie Myers
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Jamie Myers

This one is clearly on Hardesty (and to a point, Eudaly and PBOT). Hardesty is great at saying no to things because she thinks they are racist, but also never comes up with solutions. Eudaly and PBOT ruined Portland traffic by removing many lanes from busiest roads and putting unused bicycle lanes. This not only created a hostile environment between cars and bicyclists but also caused many people to get impatient and/or to drive in side streets.

We need people who actually are realistic, and not ideologues with zero sum mentality.

Craig
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Craig

This will back fire on the police chief and commissioner. I am very surprised that there are any police left on the force. I figured portland would follow suit and get rid of all the police. Its really too bad this once beautiful city was allowed to be destroyed. Our leadership in all the cities across America have turned their backs on their citizens. All countries in this world have a police force

KT in SE PDX
Guest

Propaganda.. Propaganda.. Propaganda.

Covid has changed the way we commute… There is no need to continue to spend $ on Traffic enforcement when traffic itself is way down.
Our roads areca mess yet we build more bike lanes & Bio-Swales to reek Havoc on our now non existent rush hour.

You’re media outlet is a Fish Wrap nothing more.

Propaganda… Propaganda… Propaganda..

Barney
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Barney

As long as the current attitudes towards the Portland Police continue with the tone they now have we should all get used to a reduced level of public safety. That means crime in all categories will not only increase but will remain unsolved. Not just your daily street crimes but also sexual assaults, gun crimes, child abuse, hate crimes and traffic injuries are trending upward. This will continue until a certain “pain threshold” is reached and there is a will to change the trend.
“Defund the Police?” Be careful what you wish for!

Lisa Rogers
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Lisa Rogers

We need a ban on frivolous traffic stops for minor infractions. What the heck is the point. It costs more to have the numbnut on duty than they get for a 200 ticket.