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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Does Portland have enough police?

Many people are spinning Sunday's shooting of Portland police officers by an apparently crazed man in the Brooklyn neighborhood of southeast Portland. The folks who support the police no matter how badly they behave are shouting, "See? See? It's dangerous out there. This is why we had to kill James Chasse." Meanwhile, those who are most often critical of the Portland force aren't saying much.

Everyone is rooting for the most gravely wounded of the officers, Parik Singh, to recover following his surgery for a rifle shot wound in the abdomen. He's still hospitalized, and it sounds as though he is facing a long recovery.

One of the most interesting post-shooting statements was yesterday's release by the local police union -- enablers of all sorts of mischief, but they made an important point:

Portland Police Officers respond to calls like this on a daily basis and most of the time these incidents are resolved in a positive manner. However, we have become the last rung on the ladder for a number of resources such as homelessness and mental health issues because other resources have been cut drastically. Yet over the years many of our resources have been depleted by budget cuts which have resulted in staffing shortages. Shortages that we cannot afford because the Portland Police Bureau has 1.6 officers per thousand citizens, which is unacceptable. The national average is 2.6 officers per thousand and Seattle has 2.3 officers per thousand.
It's not clear what the shooting of Officer Singh had to do with personnel shortages, but it's a point worth considering nonetheless. Why are there so few officers per capita in Portland?

Meanwhile, the requisite internet search on Singh doesn't turn up much. He has a Facebook page that displays a dark profile photo, and shows him as single and interested in women. There is also a Heather Singh who was or is employed by the police bureau, and it would not be surprising if she and the wounded officer were once married to each other. At one time they reportedly had the same address in Beaverton. There was a delay in identifying the wounded officer, and some readers have reported that it was on account of the bureau having to notify his relatives overseas.

Comments (17)

I'd pretty much agree with the last rung on the ladder bit.

There is little doubt that help for the mentally ill has been cut drastically. Our prisons have become the new mental health care facilities. Our jailers the new treatment providers.


The other elephant in the room are the tremendous costs associated to policing and incarcerating those who are in this country illegally.

Do not feel secure with Sam at the helm of the city and now the police bureau with his lack of good judgment and financial management.

National average 2.6 officers per thousand citizens and here 1.6 per thousand!

Must be very troubling to those within the bureau who may not be able to speak out... and should be troubling to the community to see this shortage and comparison.

What about the budget for gang enforcement?

Economic hard times, more people distressed and we have less officers.

Gated communities for some and the rest can just tough it out including the police officers who are understaffed and have to deal with more and more problems.

But go by streetcar, "Leed" buildings, couplets, Tram and bioswales!

Like this guy.... Definitely should be focusing on Guys like this, right, Gibby?


Sent from my iPad

The PPA head is going to spin everything as a way to increase its power, period. Considering how low Portland's crime rate is vs. all of the other issues we're dealing with, why would we throw more money at the police? This is simply the local version of the defense industry--let's not fall for it any more than the Sam-Homer-Edlen's version trickle down economics.

I agree with needing more cops. I wonder how much can be attributed to the following:

1) paying for the retirement of former cops
2) money siphoned off by urban renewal that would otherwise go to the police, or the county for those mental health services

The PDC's budget is near $200 million per year. Recently it was over $300 million per year. That could go a real long way to funding more core services.

I think if you asked the people of Portland if there are better uses for that money than dabbling (rather unsuccessfully) in real estate development, you'd get nearly unanimous agreement that there are.

The last budget for public safety was $259 million. $50 million going to public safety rather than the PDC would increase that budget by 20%.

George, I knew my comment might get a reaction such as the one you posted. First all let me apologize up front to all of the hard working Alien Highway Rescue Teams out there.

To talk about this issue in terms of impacts on the CJ system is never PC. My comment was not meant as a cry for the heads of immigrants. I called it the elephant in the room because so few are willing to acknowledge there is any impact by illegal aliens on our criminal justice system at all.

Point being, fewer police with more to deal with than in years past. I don't know the exact impact on the system from people who are in this country illegally, but I'll bet it is higher than zero, and larger than it was 15 years ago.

Nice - He's Facebook friends with Kyle Nice.

Is there any relationship between number of police per thousand population and crime statistics per thousand population?

If there was any significant correlation, I would have expected the "more police" advocates to have said something.

Portland ABSOLUTELY needs more police officers. I have been on several ride-alongs, all of which have demonstrated the need for more manpower.

You don't need to go on a ride-along in order to understand the PPB's inadequate staffing problem. Look at the report of Sunday's shooting---the backup officers who responded to their fallen were all from DIFFERENT precincts. It is alarming that an officer from North Precinct made it to SE 10th before any officers in the East Precinct could respond.

Look at the report of Sunday's shooting---the backup officers who responded to their fallen were all from DIFFERENT precincts.

Maybe the problem is too many precincts.

He's Facebook friends with Kyle Nice.

And Scott Westerman.

If there is a fund for contributions to Singh, can somebody say where?

In Overlook, we don't have an officer that regularly patrols our neighborhood. Since Overlook now goes all the way to Ainsworth and is everything west of I-5 that is a large amount of property to leave unattended.
Another issue is the way 911 and non-emergency prioritize calls. The only way to get an officer to respond is to mention weapons or a threat to life and that sets up a situation with the potential for a violent conclusion.
But I am biased.
My dad was one of those cops you mention that retired with a decent pension, but he never really quit and continued taking care of the neighborhood into his 80's. He grew up, lived and died in North Portland and knew almost everybody that was doing stupid stuff and their family situation. Often he could address the activity before it got out of hand. Our house was known as a safe house, many times kids in trouble came to stay. We even hosted Mrs. I several times when the former Mayor would let loose on her.
This also cut down my opportunity to date in high school dramatically, but I made up for it at OSU!

"Maybe the problem is too many precincts."

Come on Allan. Really? REALLY?

Cool! George has an iPad. Sent from my iPad

Sweet! So we know that he's cool, though coming off like a dork. Gibby has it right, and not even with an iPad

If it's any consolation to Portland, Gresham PD has about 1 officer per thousand. Clackamas County has .25 per thousand.

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