PORTLAND, Ore. — In a nearly 900-word statement on Tuesday, new Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said the ongoing protests are costing the city millions of dollars and limiting the police response to other reported criminal activity.
Lovell said the cost for the police response to the demonstrations is at least $6.2 million, and that doesn’t include all the expenses.
“This is a staggering sum, especially when we know many of us would rather those funds be used for the reinvestment so many truly desire,” Lovell said.
The Portland City Council, led by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, made several cuts to the police bureau’s budget last week that totaled $15 million and eliminated 84 positions. Some activists demanded as much as $50 million be cut, but Hardesty said that number was not based on rational analysis.
Lovell said the police response to the nightly protests has been so significant, it's limited their response to other reported criminal activity. He noted there have been six homicides in the last 10 days, an increase in shootings and other calls such as domestic violence, robberies and burglaries.
Protests have continued in Portland every night for the past four weeks since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day. Lovell said many of these rallies have been “an awesome statement of unity for transformational change.”
Nightly demonstrations, led by Rose City Justice, have been non-violent and continue to call for defunding police, and reform addressing police brutality and racial injustice. Most recently, on Monday night, the group led a march through North Portland while focusing on the death of Kendra James, a Black woman who was 21 years old when she was shot and killed by Portland police during a traffic stop in 2003.
Lovell also focused on the demonstrators who have been outside the Justice Center in downtown Portland, where he said dozens of officers have suffered injuries ranging from concussions to torn ligaments. He went as far as to say Portland is “fortunate lives have not been lost” during the protests.
The clashes between police and demonstrators outside the Justice Center typically lead to the arrest of a dozen or so people on a nightly basis, most for misdemeanor charges. Police often use force to disperse the protesters, some of which has been captured on video and led to questions, and in one instance court restrictions, about how the bureau uses force.