|May 29, 2020, marks the beginning of protests in the City of Portland sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Communities, including the law enforcement community, have collectively expressed our outrage and anger of the blatant disregard for life by a police officer whose job it was to protect and serve. The 8 minutes and 46 seconds of video shocked the nation. The public immediately and rightfully demanded police reforms to ensure that what happened to George Floyd never happens again and to safeguard the treatment of black and brown people by law enforcement—to ensure racial equity, social justice, and fairness be guaranteed through changes in policy, training, recruitment and funding of law enforcement departments nationwide.
True leadership is looking at how to make meaningful change without putting community safety in jeopardy, it is working collaboratively and evolving to meet the public safety needs of our City.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, in lockstep with Portland City Council, made drastic cuts to the Portland Police Bureau budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year starting July 1, 2020. The Gun Violence Reduction Team (GVRT) was on the chopping block and has been disbanded. Mayor Wheeler called it a “work in progress” but the experiment has proven a failure with deadly consequences.
The GVRT’s primary assignment was to essentially handle gun violence; they were dispatched to crime scenes when shots were fired, canvassed the neighborhood, contacted witnesses, looked at security footage, and tracked down forensic evidence. Perhaps, most importantly, they also worked to build and develop relationships within the community to help stop future crimes from happening. The GVRT was formed with the merging of the Gang Enforcement Team, the Metro Gang Task Force, and the Gun Task Force.
This hybrid approach has been a nationwide model for curbing gun violence through proactive policing, using technology and unique intelligence-gathering philosophies, and building relationships, partnerships, and friendships in the community. The GVRT has taken hundreds of guns off the streets, responded to hundreds of gang-related shooting scenes, and solved tens of dozens of homicides and assaults and attempted murders and attempted assaults. They have been the Portland Police Bureau’s driving force behind keeping the number of shootings down. They were trusted by community members as a conduit of information related to gang violence in the City of Portland.
When Mayor Wheeler announced that he would disband the Bureau’s GVRT, he said he didn’t know exactly what the dissolving of the GVRT would look like.
We are now a month into it, and here’s what it looks like: