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Portland police chief shuffling resources to address gun violence

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell is expanding the homicide detail by adding the detectives and sergeant assigned to the cold case unit.

PORTLAND, Ore. — At a press conference Tuesday, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell thanked Portland Police Bureau (PPB) staff for their hard work every day, including the task of pushing back against unprecedented levels of gun violence in the Rose City.

Since the start of the year, 32 people have been killed and more than 150 people injured in more than 480 shootings across Portland. Those numbers are unacceptable, Lovell said, and he announced new policy changes to address the crisis.

PPB's Focused Intervention Team (FIT) will work five days a week instead of four, he said. The team of detectives investigating homicides is also expanding.

"We now have three teams of eight in our homicide detail," he said.

Lovell said he'll get to those numbers by moving the two detectives and one sergeant who make up the cold case unit to homicide detail. But the move doesn't mean abandoning efforts to solve the city's several hundred cold cases, he added.

RELATED: Weekend shootings and crashes spotlight PPB's staffing issues

"These cold cases are important to us," he said. "They involve death of a community member. We know the importance these have to families and we're not going away from that work. It's a shift of those resources to help with rise of homicides we have currently. In the meantime, if we get leads on those cases, those cases are still assigned to detectives. They remain on that detective's case load, so we'll still take those and work those."

Amid these moves, Lovell said he's asking the public for patience.

"All the resources we're putting on gun violence are coming from other places and impacting other work," he said.

Lovell also addressed PPB's staffing issues during the half-hour press conference. A city the size of Portland should have 1,100 sworn members, he said, and PPB has approximately 770. 

RELATED: Portland mayor and officials discuss strategies, staffing challenges amid wave of gun violence

PPB's personnel division recently hired eight new background investigators who have already been assigned more than 100 new job applicants, he said. While promising those applicants will still need to go through the police academy if hired, and that will take time.

In the meantime, Lovell said he and his staff are getting creative.

"Some of the conversations we're having: Are there ways to outreach to community members to give them a role connected to public safety where they can serve as eyes and ears in the community, and be a presence in a lot of places?" he said.

That comment refers to civilians who patrolled Holladay Park in years past, resulting in a decrease in crime. Only time will tell if that sort of model could serve as a successful stopgap in some of the city's current trouble spots.

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