After slashing the police budget by $15 million last year in response to the 'defund the police' movement, Portland is now giving its firefighters bulletproof vests as violent crime surges in the Democratic stronghold.
According to Portland Fire & Rescue, the decision was the result of a "changing landscape" which includes more calls involving 'aggressive patients and bystanders.'
According to Oregon Live, many details surrounding the vests are still unclear - including when the vests will be worn (on top of the 45 lbs of gear they're already wearing), how many will be purchased, and when they will become available.
"We always will do anything and everything to keep firefighters safe because that’s what keeps people in Portland safe," said Isaac McLennan, vice president of the Portland Fire Fighters’ Association, who added that the decision is fully supported by the firefighters union.
Firefighters have been more concerned for their safety because of responders being attacked or stabbed in Oregon and other parts of the country, McLennan said.
McLennan referenced a 2018 fire in Springfield where a man started shooting at firefighters responding to a house fire. Police said authorities believed the man intentionally set the 4 a.m. blaze to ambush emergency responders.
No one was seriously injured, but the attack left fire truck windshields riddled with bullet holes. -Oregon Live
McLennan said that the vests would be used in situations where firefighters go in to rescue an injured person while police are securing an area with an active shooter.
The decision comes amid a year of surging violence in Portland - as the police logged 837 shootings through August, with the largest increase occurring in the city's North Precinct - where 383 shootings as of Aug 31 brings the increase over last year to more than 100%.
Gun violence in particular has become so bad in Portland that DA Mike Schmidt announced that the city will spend $1 million to hire four new prosecutors and two investigators to handle cases.
As of Sept. 24, 65 people died in homicides in the city - approaching the city's all-time record of 70 homicides in 1987. The vast majority of victims were killed in shootings.
"For many of the prosecutors in my office who have been doing this for 20, 30 years, this is a once in a career surge in violent crime," said Schmidt.