Portland plans to fight surge in gun violence with millions in funding for unarmed, unsworn park rangers

PORTLAND, OR– In an effort to curb a surge in gun violence, the City of Portland is nearly doubling its number of unarmed, unsworn Parks and Recreation Rangers, but they have zero intentions of sending any additional funding to the city’s police force.

On April 7th, the City Council unanimously passed a $6 million plan to combat a wave of shootings that have killed Portlanders at a record rate this past year. The plan reportedly sends $1.4 million to various community outreach programs.

The plan also allocates $1.4 million to hiring new Portland park rangers  to patrol the city parks as “goodwill ambassadors.” City commissioners said in a statement:

“They are eyes on the ground, ensuring that our parks remain welcoming public spaces and calling in police to intervene should violent situations arise.”

Portland Parks and Recreation (PPR) currently employs 24 full-time rangers year-round with another 11 positions during the summer. With the new plan, PPR will be able to hire another 24 rangers. 

According to the PPR’s spokesperson, rangers are trained in de-escalation techniques, anti-bias, first aid, and crisis intervention. They are also authorized to enforce city code related to park rule violations.

A PPR manager claimed that the agency’s workers are skilled and capable of helping to curb Portland’s problems with gun violence.

Portland for Positive Impact founder Randy Philbrick said that boosting the number of PPR rangers will not do much to deter crime and it will put the unarmed rangers at risk. He said:

“I know the level of respect they won’t get as we’ve already seen this week with a couple park rangers getting a Taser pulled on them. We’re setting these guys up for failure.”

The idea for this plan immediately drew pushback from some rangers, who said it turned them into unarmed park cops. The union representing those rangers, LIUNA Local 483, had not weighed in until Wednesday, April 7th, when it sent a written testimony to City Council.

In the letter, union organizer Ted Bryan, said that the union supports the city adding ranger jobs, but it is concerned that the public will think rangers are now police officers.

Bryan reminded commissioners that rangers can only issue citations to people breaking park rules and need police to help kick people out of parks. He wrote:

“Our presence in uniform may act as a deterrent for behavior that is inappropriate in parks, however, for some members of the public, the presence of uniformed city employees inspires a hostile reaction. We are not authorized, trained, or equipped to intervene in violent situations and certainly not in situations involving gun violence.”

He added:

“We ask you take this into account when considering the kinds of situations to which rangers may be safely and appropriately deployed.”

Bryan said that city council needs to at least provide PPR rangers with body armor in order to “protect them from projectiles and stab threats.”

Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said that the main purpose for in increased number of PPR rangers is just to make people feel like they are safer, not to have the rangers actually act as police. She said:

“What we know is that when people are visible out in the community, it reduces crime. It will mean more community members using public spaces, which means more eyes on the street, which means a reduction in crime.”

She discussed her conversation with Mayor Ted Wheeler about what would happen if rangers ran into people with guns. She said:

“The mayor asked me: ‘What are park rangers going to do if somebody starts shooting?’ I said, they’re going to call 911. No way do we want park rangers intervening. If someone pulls out their gun, they’d better call 911.”

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Portland Police – defunded and attacked by Democrats – now ‘can’t keep up’ with shooting investigations

April 2nd, 2021

PORTLAND, OR – With violent crime rising within the city of Portland, officers within the Portland Police Bureau are struggling to keep up with quick responses to various calls and closings of active investigations.

Evidence of this surge in crime that is hampering police resources can be showcases from the period that transpired overnight from March 30th into the morning of 31st – where Portland police or called to investigate a deadly stabbing and two shooting incidents.

Lieutenant Greg Pashley, a public information officer with the PPB, described the details surrounding the southwest Portland stabbing incident:

“So, the first one happened about midnight down on Southwest First and Southwest Ankeny. And this was a call where officers responded to an assault with a weapon. When they arrived they found someone who had apparently been stabbed.”

The victim in that incident reportedly died from their sustained injuries, with police not yet having identified a suspect in the case.

Prior to the fatal stabbing, officers got called out to northeast Portland for a reported shooting incident, which Lieutenant Pashley described the circumstances of that case:

“Officers arrived and found a person had apparently been shot. That person was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.”

As for the suspect, police reportedly pursued the individual throughout the city until the suspect crashed a pickup truck through a fence in Mill Park. Lieutenant Pashley says officers attempted to talk the suspect down for several hours:

“That was the beginning of about four or five hours of conversation, negotiation. They called our Special Emergency Reaction Team and Crisis Negotiation Team who came and took over the scene.”

Police were said to have utilized CS gas in an effort to draw the suspect out of the vehicle; however, the suspect was said to have turned his own weapon on himself and committed suicide.

Not long after that incident, police were called to yet another shooting, which this one occurred in north Portland on Lombard at a 7-Eleven. According to Lieutenant Pashley, this shooting incident also proved to be fatal for the victim:

“There was some kind of incident in a convenient store or a convenient store parking lot. hat person was transported to the hospital in the ambulance. It’s an adult male and that man did not survive that gun shot wound. So, that is yet another homicide that’s under investigation.”

From what the PPB lieutenant says , that brings the total number of homicides within Portland for 2021 to 25. Yet, the police bureau has been dealing with this increase in violence since last year:

“We are at 69 homicides since July 1 of 2020, so these homicide detectives are essentially buried under their cases.”

According to Lieutenant Pashley, Portland Police have brought in more detectives and police officers to help work on some of these shooting investigations, though he says “quite frankly they can’t keep up”:

“What happens is when dozens of officers get tied up on a scene, like the one behind us, it does limit our ability to respond to other calls for service throughout the city.”

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In other recent news related to Portland Police, the DOJ is reportedly putting pressure on the police bureau to come up with a plan that addresses how to efficiently investigate and potentially modify police use-of-force. 

Here’s that report from March. 

_

PORTLAND, OR– U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers are requesting that the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) produce a plan on how they will “properly” report, analyze, and investigate officers’ use of force.

According to The Oregonian, the city has refused and contends that such a correction plan is not required under the 2014 court approved settlement agreement on police reforms with the Justice Department.

The 2014 settlement reportedly called for reforms to the PPB’s training, oversight, supervision, use of force policies, and restructuring police crisis intervention services as well as finding ways to conduct investigations into allegations of police misconduct more quickly.

Now, DOJ attorneys are demanding that PPB produce a specific correction plan regarding how they will report, analyze, and investigate use of force incidents. They are accusing the City of Portland and the PPB of failing to abide by the provisions of the 2014 settlement.

U.S. Attorney Jared Hager has alleged that officers’ handling of use of force incidents during the six consecutive months of rioting that took place in downtown Portland over summer 2020 is “evidence” that the PPB is not abiding by the conditions of the 2014 court order.

Hager stated:

“Over the summer it was revealed to us and for the city, the community, and to the world really, that there is a systemic failure to implement some of the terms of the settlement agreement.”

Jonas Geissler, a senior trial attorney with the DOJ added:

“Having failed the system for investigation of force at the front end, you starve the accountability system on the back end. Absent such data, I don’t know where we go yet from here. We’ll have to see.”

The DOJ lawyers are demanding the city produce data, evidence, and a clear plan outlining how they will comply with the settlement requirements.

The stalemate could prompt the DOJ to issue a formal notice of non-compliance to the city, a step not taken in the seven years since U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon approved the agreement. It could essentially bring both sides back before a federal judge. 

In February, the DOJ reportedly found that the PPB failed to meet four key reforms under the 2014 settlement. The department has cited PPB’s inappropriate use and management of force during social justice protests last year, inadequate training, subpart police oversight, and a failure to adequately share an annual Police Bureau report with the public as required.

DOJ lawyers are claiming that police used force during 2020’s mass protests that violated bureau policy, with officers not distinguishing between active versus passive resistance before firing rubber bullets and other impact munitions.

The report added that police supervisors allegedly frequently failed to investigate or analyze use of force by officers, gave blanket approval to use force with no real analysis and often “cut and pasted” identical or similar language into their reviews. 

Mary Claire Buckley, a civilian employee who oversees the Police Bureau’s Office of Inspector General, pushed back on the DOJ’s concerns. She said that the city has never had to “write up our plan” in the past.

She added that the PPB was so inundated during six consecutive months of rioting, looting, and attacks on police that took place over summer 2020 that they simply did not have the manpower to complete all the paperwork required under the settlement.

Buckley said:

“We were overwhelmed by the unprecedented protest activity. No other city in this country had 171 straight days of protest activity.”

Instead of their typical 40 use of force reports per month, Buckley stated that the PPB was dealing with as many as 3,000 in June 2020.

She said:

“It was not that the bureau didn’t have a system. It’s not that we deliberately didn’t do the work. It was just that there was so much of it that we couldn’t keep up.”

She noted that the city received the federal report on about six weeks ago. She said in a statement:

“We have committed to doing additional training for the members on crowd control.”

She added that PPB has every intention of having a training and addressing the points that the DOJ has raised on the content of police force reports, analysis by supervisors, and the timeliness of their reviews.

Hager said the inability to track and promptly review uses of force is a significant concern. He said:

“Holding officers to account, if use of force is not in policy or not constitutional, that’s an important aspect of the settlement agreement. It’s really at the core of the settlement agreement. The bureau system isn’t set up to handle that. That’s something that needs to be addressed.

“If the system can’t handle the amount of force that the city chooses to use in a crowd control situation, well then that’s a problem that we’re now confronted with.”

DOJ attorneys said that the PPB is obligated under the settlement to hold public meetings at each of its three precincts. The DOJ attorneys stated:

“The federal government reserves its right to seek enforcement of the provisions of this Agreement if it determines that PPB or the City have failed to fully comply with any provision of this Agreement.”

The DOJ would provide a formal notice to the city and allow for a response in 30 days. Mediation would follow if a resolution could not be reached. If mediation fails, the DOJ could ask a judge to enforce compliance.

Hager added:

“Ultimately, we can’t force the city to do anything. If the rubber hits the road, that’s ultimately what the department can do.”

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Author: Jenna Curren


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