PORTLAND, Ore. — In the wake of a recent surge in shootings outside Portland high schools, more than a dozen education, civic and public safety leaders met Friday morning at Portland Public Schools headquarters to discuss gun violence.
The district said leaders would "discuss how to align resources, collaborate, and develop holistic solutions to remedy gun violence impacting Portland's children, youth and families."
Leaders held a news conference Friday morning after the meeting, which KGW streamed live. Watch the video on on KGW's YouTube channel.
In the news conference, the various leaders offered little in the way of new policy announcements, but they all described the meeting as an important step in coordinating the region's response to gun violence.
Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero and Board Chair Andrew Scott both demurred on questions about whether the district would bring back school resource officers, stating that the district is still in the process of holding public safety focus groups with students, parents and educators— and the return of SROs is just one of the ideas being discussed.
Although he said the district was open to discussing the return of school resource officers, Scott at one point expressed frustration with what he described as a community school safety discussion that had become overly focused on the "binary" question of SROs rather than additional safety strategies. When asked, he also said he felt that the decision to remove them in 2020 was the right decision at the time.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler did discuss police staffing more broadly, and stated that the Portland Police Bureau has turned the tide on its struggle to attract new hires, having recently fielded more than 1,500 applications.
The challenge now is getting those new hires trained, certified and out onto the streets, he said, pointing to a wait time of up to five months for new hires to be assigned an academy slot at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in Salem.
Wheeler said he'd be calling on Oregon's governor and legislature to make more academy slots available, and to explore the possibility of establishing an academy in the Portland metro area to speed up the training process.
Recent school shootings
There have been at least four shootings near a Portland high school during the 2022-23 school year. Shots were fired Saturday outside Franklin High School in Southeast Portland while a boys basketball game was being played inside the school gymnasium. Police said a student may have been grazed by a bullet and a 15-year-old was detained and booked into a Portland juvenile detention center.
In October, two students were hurt after a shooting near Jefferson High School in North Portland. Another teen was hurt in a separate drive-by shooting near that same school in November. And last month, a student was shot outside Cleveland High School in Southeast Portland.
On Monday, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said he'd increase patrols around Franklin High School. That same day, Guererro said he wanted to see increased patrols around all district schools, not just Franklin.
After the December shooting at Cleveland High, Lovell said the bureau and the school district were discussing the possibility of bringing back school resource officers, but there has been no public announcement after any direction from those talks. The district removed school resource officers from all schools in June of 2020.
Lovell was also at Friday morning's meeting. Here's the full list of attendants:
Portland Public Schools
- Guadalupe Guerrero, Superintendent
- Andrew Scott, School Board Chair
- Gary Hollands, School Board Vice-Chair
- Amy Kohnstamm, Chair, Intergovernmental Committee, School Board
- Molly Romay, Senior Director of Security Services
City of Portland
- Ted Wheeler, Mayor
- Rene Gonzalez, Commissioner
- Chuck Lovell, Chief of Police
- Mike Myers, Community Safety Transition Director
- Stephanie Howard, Director of Community Safety, Office of the Mayor
- Jessica Vega Pederson, Chair
- Mike Schmidt, District Attorney
- Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell, Sheriff
- Erica Preuitt, Director of Community Justice
- Dr. Kyla Armstrong-Romero, Director of Juvenile Service Division, Community Justice