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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.)
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“local gang says violence will continue until the appropriate bribes have been paid”
He (or Lovell?) also said the police violence will continue until funding improves, so… this checks out.
Gangs aren’t being disbanded. The Traffic Division is.
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.
I think one of the problems is that very few people want to work at PPB because they are fully aware of how fraught the job is and how disliked the PPB is by so many people.
This is IMO yet another reason why PPB should be disbanded and we need something completely new in its place. The PPB as it is today and with its currently entrenched leadership and culture will NEVER be able to repair its reputation to the point where officers will be eager to work there. It’s a downward spiral: Very few officers want to work at PPB, so they lower the bar for hiring so low that the officers who do make it through are not as qualified as they should be and the existing officers are so burned out they can’t do the work the way it should be done.
Put yourself in their shoes. Who would want to work at PPB? All the liberal woke Portlanders think it’s super cool to hate on the police…throwing Molotov cocktails, canned food and feces filled balloons at them. Even those who aren’t overtly violent fill their Twitter page with hateful and vile words toward them. Not exactly a great way to work collaboratively to improve our system of public safety. No wonder stellar officers like Dave Sanders (who started the Bike Theft Task Force) bail out for Beaverton.
Javier, police departments all over the country have trouble filling positions. It’s not a Portland problem. Most good people don’t want to be cops because they don’t want to spend their lives hurting their community and destroying peoples lives. A good question for PPB to ask themselves is, why is there such broad distrust and dislike of them? No one is throwing cans of food (the horror) at DHS workers, or firefighters, or librarians.
Dave left because PPB got rid of the Bike Theft Task force in their attempt to remove any programs the public valued as punishment for wanting police reform.
“….Most good people don’t want to be cops because they don’t want to spend their lives hurting their community and destroying peoples lives….”
That’s over the top and is quite offensive to the many great officers who work hard to help our community. I’m sorry you feel that way.
There is no such thing as a “great officer”. Every single one participates in the human rights disgrace that is the United States prison industrial complex. I can’t imagine anyone thinks any PPB officers work hard at anything though.
I’m sure those “many great officers” have the mental acuity to know that they are not the ones being referred to and realize that they have a few coworkers who need a dramatic career change. The logical fallacy of, “but not all are bad” is tiresome.
PPB is disliked for many legitimate reasons.
from Oregonlive: To try to speed up the background investigations, applicants were allowed to fill out personal history statements online. But the turnaround time from application to hiring still averages nearly a year, or 340 days, causing the bureau to frequently lose people to other agencies with shorter turn-around times
THIS is a huge issue. We need more police, but itis an insanely long process.
They don’t have to take drug tests.
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.
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.
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?
they don’t want to be police officers they want to be traffic jockeys handing out tickets and never facing any real risk whatsoever while inflating the coffers of the police department and City officials. same reason cops get mad when we legalize weed because then they have to go after real criminals who have guns.
The cops told you that?
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.
PBOT and ODOT don’t install infrastructure changes in places where it’s needed. It’s hard to say it’s not working. PBOT moves at a glacial pace and ODOT doesn’t move at all. These agencies are run by the type of people who thinking lowering the speed limit on Marine Drive will actually work.
Start putting speed cameras, speed bumps, traffic diverters, and other speed reduction techniques. If all that happens and our traffic deaths still go up, I’ll buy that it doesn’t work.
IMO it’s like how PBOT “implemented” VisionZero and then didn’t actually do the program in anyway. Can we really say that VisionZero failed in Portland when PBOT’s idea of VisionZero is cheering for good drivers?
I’d love more enforcement.
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.
Yes. Absolutely correct.
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.
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.
Take a look at The Netherlands. If a car hits a bicyclist, the car driver is guilty unless they can prove otherwise.
Guilty of a crime? Or judged at fault for liability purposes?
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.
Today’s PPB news:
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
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..
Yet traffic deaths are up – that’s a weird correlation.
You’re telling us traffic is down but then say the roads are a mess.
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!
Any increases in crime that are currently happening are happening in an environment where police have NOT been defunded (and no, the paltry $15M trimmed from their budget over the summer isn’t what defunding looks like and PPB blew past their budget anyway) so your point doesn’t hold water.
As a society we have tried giving more and more money to police and the result is as same it has ever been—cops making marginalized members of the community less safe. So why not take that money back and invest in solutions that aren’t harmful for a change?
Because the sums needed to invest in those solutions are so much higher than what we spend on the PPB. That’s our fundamental budget challenge: developing a much-needed alternative to the criminal justice system for dealing with addiction and mental health problems will require a huge investment, and the payback period will be lengthy.
I TOTALLY support making these investments, and am willing to pay more in taxes to make it work. I wish that others who support this alternative approach would be realistic about budget and timeline. It will not work to take money from the police now to fix these problems. We need to invest today, and we may be able to reduce the police tomorrow when the today’s change start paying off. We won’t be able to pay for it my shuffling funds around.
Our lawmakers need to hear what I’ve told mine: raise my taxes and spend that money developing an alternative to today’s policing model. We need new or greatly expanded systems of mental health, drug treatment, housing, and more. Pretending we can do it with reductions in the police budget is not going to move these alternatives forward.
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.
The way to get rid of frivolous stops for minor infractions is to repeal the laws make those minor things illegal. If there’s no reason for enforcing a law, there’s no reason for having it at all.
That sort of reform is completely independent of the police, and can be made effective the day the bill is signed into law.