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Portland to disband police Gun Violence Reduction Team, transit units, mayor announces

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced a list of police reforms, which also includes a ban on chokeholds as a method of control by officers.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland will disband the police bureau's Gun Violence Reduction Team and transit specialty units, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Tuesday.

Wheeler's list of police reforms also includes a ban on chokeholds as a method of control by police officers, reforming the use of consent searches in traffic stops, and the redirection of over $7 million from the Portland Police Bureau and $5 million from other city funds to invest in communities of color.

“For too long, the city of Portland underinvested in communities of color, especially our black community,” said Wheeler.

Read the full list of reforms below.

Mayor Wheeler, who is also police commissioner, said his office has received thousands of calls, emails and letters from the community demanding accountability.

"I recognize that demands have been made by the black community for over 3-and-a-half years. I should have acted sooner,” Wheeler said. "I should have acted with greater urgency to these demands. My privilege shielded me from difficult and uncomfortable truths on history and society."

New Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell clarified that Portland police officers may use chokeholds in a life-or-death situation. 

“At the end of the day, all of these things I believe will lift the community and make us all safer,” Wheeler said.

"There’s no easy answer here. The community has spoken loudly and clearly. I have pledged as the mayor to listen and understand, to put ideas forward and to show real faith in transformational change.”

"It won’t be easy," said Wheeler. "If it were easy, we would have done this a long time ago.”

For her part, Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said she will introduce a series of amendments before city council Wednesday in response to the collective call for action, including:

  • Eliminate the eight positions of the Special Emergency Reaction Team.
  • Stop using cannabis tax funds to fill funding gaps for the traffic division.
  • Reappropriate $4.8 million from defunding the specialty units to fund Portland Street Response, a new unarmed, non-police first-response option.

On Monday, Portland Police Chief Jami Resch announced she was stepping down and Lt. Chuck Lovell would be the new chief of the Portland Police Bureau.

Wheeler opened Monday's news conference with remarks about the need for reform and change. He pledged to announce specifics on Tuesday.

Wheeler has previously, along with Portland Public Schools, decided to remove armed police officers from schools in Portland.

RELATED: School resource officers will no longer patrol Portland schools

He has also directed the Portland Police Bureau not to use tear gas, or CS gas, unless there is "a serious and immediate threat to life safety."

RELATED: Mayor Wheeler tells Portland police to use tear gas only if lives are threatened

Watch Monday's news conference below.

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