PORTLAND, Ore. — Earlier this week, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler released a set of proposed public safety investments for consideration as part of the annual fall budget adjustment process.
To lock in that proposal, which includes hiring 300 new Portland Police Bureau staff in the next three years, the mayor will need support from his city council.
It's the same body, though not the same people, who cut $15 million from the PPB's budget in 2020.
However, Mayor Wheeler will likely get the support from a council newcomer, Mingus Mapps.
"I think the reality is the atmosphere has changed," Mapps said in an interview Thursday. "You know, I think Portlanders have a new appreciation for the important work that the police department does. It doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. There are important reforms we still need to make. But I think we see our public safety needs much more clearly than we did a little bit ago."
Portland is grappling with a historic surge in gun violence, and has already broken annual records for shootings and homicides this year. The city passed 1,000 shootings last month, compared with 891 total shootings in 2020 and 388 in 2019.
Of the 300 new hires, two thirds would be certified and armed officers, while the remaining 100 would be unarmed community safety specialists.
"I will point out that more people have been killed in gun crimes in Portland in the last year than at any time in our city's history," Mapps said. "Portland's been around 170 years. I'll also tell you the vast majority of the folks who have been killed in gun violence are people of color. Frankly, they tend to be Black men who look like me. I think that is an equity problem the city has not come to terms with. The reforms that we're proposing for public safety are one of the ways we can actually provide justice to people of color who just want to get through their day."
So can the mayor count on his support?
"I will have some questions about the specific items in his proposal. But overall, I broadly support the direction he's going in, so I'm pretty sure that in the end, the mayor can count on my vote," Mapps said.
When asked what he didn't like in the proposal, Mapps said he was disappointed in the lack of treatment beds connected to the Behavioral Health Unit.
"Those are the cops that deal with mentally ill folks who are also violent. The goal here is instead of taking a mentally ill person to jail for frankly ... a few hours, the police can take them to a treatment center where there is a bed reserved for police department clients," Mapps said.
Commissioners held a work session Thursday afternoon on the budget that you can watch online. We've also reached out to commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty, Dan Ryan and Carmen Rubio about the proposed plan.
As of Thursday evening, KGW hasn't heard from commissioners Hardesty or Ryan, but received this statement from Commissioner Rubio:
"Yesterday, Mayor Wheeler asked his colleagues on the Council to assure Portlanders that we hear them, recognize their concerns, and share their urgency. I do. I share their concern, passion and hope for Portland’s future. My staff and I are working hard to safely and compassionately reduce the number of people living outside, reduce the root causes of gun violence, revitalize our economy in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions, reduce the number of vacancies within our police bureau — without losing sight of greater transparency and accountability, and while holding the bureau and City Hall to a process of truth and reconciliation. Portlanders placed their confidence in me when they elected me at this pivotal time for our city, and I strive to honor that responsibility every day."