PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Police Bureau's (PPB) new team meant to address the city's gun violence problem hit the streets for the first time Wednesday.
"This is a great day for us. It's been a long time in the making, but we wanted to get this right," PPB Chief Chuck Lovell said.
The Focused Intervention Team (FIT) consists of 12 officers and two sergeants. They were required to complete 65 hours of training before stepping into their new roles.
Last year, there were more than 1,200 confirmed shootings across Portland, the most ever recorded; 386 people were injured and 69 people were killed. There have already been a handful of fatal shootings less than three weeks into 2022.
"Being new to Portland, I immediately recognized gun violence was an issue," said Ofc. Chris Baten, who patrolled with PPB's central precinct before joining FIT.
According to the police bureau, FIT will be focused on responding to shooting scenes and apprehending suspects. Team members also underwent training for treating gunshot victims and tactical training for situations such as traffic stops, emergency entries and clearing buildings.
"What we've experienced the last year and a half or so with homicides and shootings has been tough on everyone," Chief Lovell said. "We're glad we can field this team to address some of the gun violence in our city."
More than 45 officers applied to join FIT before the team members were selected. This is the first time PPB has had a team focused on gun violence since July 2020, when its Gun Violence Reduction Team disbanded amid protests calling for police reform.
"We haven't had this focused gun violence deterrent in a while, and I think that'll help right off the bat. It's hard to say with a number, we don't know what'll happen tonight or the next night, but my hope is that over time we'll see a decrease in shootings in the city."
Lovell said a community oversight group will lend support to FIT by giving input on how the team is run and potential issues that arise. He said relationship building will be key to the team's success, and that won't happen overnight,
Ofc. Baten agreed, saying those relationships will help FIT tackle the city's growing gun violence problem.
Chief Lovell added, "Having a safe city where there isn't 90 homicides a year is important to me as the chief and important to those standing behind me, which is why they're doing the work."