PORTLAND, Ore. — Twelve Portland police officers and two sergeants spent Friday at a training facility in Northeast Portland preparing for their new roles with the bureau's Focused Intervention Team (FIT).
The team has one simple goal: to stop the gun violence plaguing the Rose City.
"I absolutely think the FIT team will make a difference," said team leader Sgt. Ken Duilio. "The number one thing this team will be doing is responding to shootings in progress, trying to apprehend suspects and responding to the actual crime scene."
FIT members will also find themselves having to treat gunshot victims, a big part of their training Friday. FIT will also be put through tactical training.
"Building clears, traffic stops, emergency entries," Sgt. Duilio said. "There's some training with our K9 unit, air support unit."
Sgt. Duilio said this type of training could not have come at a better time.
There were more than 1,200 confirmed shootings across Portland in 2021; 386 people were injured and 69 people were killed. Three people have already been gunned down within the first week of 2022.
"We've never had this many homicides," Sgt. Duilio said. "We've never had this many people shot."
Shootings nearly doubled when the Portland Police Bureau's Gun Violence Reduction Team disbanded in July 2020 amid calls for police reform and allegations of racial profiling.
Unlike that team, however, FIT will be working under the supervision of a community oversight group.
"They've been involved in every aspect of this team from the very beginning," Sgt. Duilio said.
Even so, ending the gun violence in Portland is no easy task. It will not happen over night. As Sgt. Duilio explains, expectations cannot exceed capabilities.
"This is a big, big problem," he said. "Implementing FIT is one part of hopefully a solution to reduce some of this gun violence, and it's going to take years. It'll take a commitment from the police bureau, elected officials."
FIT members will go through 65 hours of training through Jan. 15. The team will officially hit the streets Jan. 19.