Mayor Ted Wheeler Proposes Increasing Police Budget
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A year after Portland’s police department underwent significant budget cuts amid demands to defund the police, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Wednesday he is seeking more than $5 million this fall for police investments, including hiring more officers and buying body-worn cameras.
Wheeler’s announcement came during the city’s most violent year with a record number of 72 homicides, surpassing its previous full-year record of 66 in 1987.
Nationally, homicides increased by nearly 30% from 2019 to 2020, based on FBI data. However, in Portland, deadly violence — which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, economic hardships, gang-related crime and mental health crises — increased at a faster rate than nearly all major cities, with an 83% increase in homicides in 2020.
“Many Portlanders no longer feel safe in their city,” Wheeler said during a news conference Wednesday. “Business owners have closed up shop, for fear of doing business in high risk areas. Commuters fear for their safety, whether taking public transport or going by foot. Parents are scared to let their children play outside.”
The about face by Wheeler came a day after strong showings by mayoral candidates in other liberal cities like Seattle and New York who had rejected calls to defund the police and who have pledged more resources for public safety.