Portland officials were proud of themselves in 2020 when they defunded the Police Bureau by $15 million instead of increasing it by $3 million as planned. One commissioner was even upset that the council didn’t remove more from the budget.
"Please take a moment to celebrate this victory, and let it fuel your fire, because we're not done," Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said at the time.
Along with the $15 million, another $12 million was cut because of pandemic-caused economic shortfalls. “As a result, school resource officers, transit police and a gun violence reduction team -- which was found to disproportionately target Black Portland residents during traffic stops, according to an audit in March 2018 -- were disbanded,” PBS reported.
A year later, the council was trying to add funding and retain the city’s police officers. “The added police spending is occurring amid a year of a record number of homicides, the city’s greatest police staffing shortage in decades and reform recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Justice,” PBS reported.
It was too little, too late. The damage was done, and the city has yet to recover. In fact, the city government is telling residents not to call police unless their lives are at risk. Given how dangerous Portland has become, it might not affect the volume of calls to police because more residents’ lives are at risk from criminal activity than ever before.
Commissioner Rene Gonzalez told residents that the city’s 911 system is overwhelmed with people calling about addicts on the streets suffering fentanyl overdoses. This is not a Portland-only problem. The state of Oregon decriminalized drug use three years ago. Gonzalez urged people on X (formerly Twitter), “Our 911 system is getting hammered this morning with a multiple person incident -- multiple overdoses in northwest park blocks. Please do not call 911 except in event of life/death emergency or crime in progress (or change of apprehending suspect).”
Over the past year, the city has experienced 104 homicides and 529 arrests were made for drug offenses, according to Portland Police. The city’s homeless population has also grown by 50 percent since 2019, topping more than 5,000 people.
“Portland's neighborhoods have been overrun with crime, homelessness, and drugs since the pandemic -- and despite pouring funds into relief initiatives, little change is occurring on the streets of the city,” the Daily Mail reported.
The people of Portland are understandably upset that crime is out of control, leaving their property and lives at risk. I really want to feel sorry for those residents being forced to live under those conditions. However, this is what those people voted for.
They continue to elect the same types of progressive politicians who believe the same failed policies will somehow work if they try them enough. They are the same people who, even if they didn’t participate in the 2020 riots, supported them.
If they truly want things to change for the better for the city, they need to vote for change and change their way of thinking. Change will bring change.
Michael A. Letts is the CEO and Founder of In-VestUSA, a national grassroots non-profit organization helping hundreds of communities provide thousands of bulletproof vests for their police forces through educational, public relations, sponsorship, and fundraising programs.