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Portland police struggling to fill patrol aimed at combating rising murder rate

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The Portland, Oregon, police department is struggling to fill a patrol designed to combat the rising murder rate.

Only four police officers have applied to fill the 14 spots on the Focused Initiative Team, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Lt. Greg Pashley did not confirm an exact number of applicants but told the Washington Examiner that "not very many people applied."

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The team is a reincarnation of the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which was shut down last year amid the racial justice protests that included calls for police reform.

"The chief's office is now working on choosing sergeants first, then working to assemble the rest of the team. There is no specific date for the team to be formed," Pashley said, adding that nobody has been assigned to the team yet.

Some law enforcement leaders say anti-police sentiment is responsible for the reportedly low interest in the new patrol.

"They're demonizing and vilifying you, and then they want to put you in a unit where you're under an even bigger microscope," Daryl Turner, head of the union that represents Portland's officers, said.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, who announced the new unit in March, also created an 11-member community member oversight board.

In addition to the old requirements to join the unit, the new internal job postings include new demands such as the "ability to identify and dismantle institutional and systemic racism in the bureau’s responses to gun violence."

There were 98 homicide offenses in Portland between June 2020 and June 2021, according to Portland's police bureau.

"It is difficult to be sure exactly about the record, as our predecessors did not anticipate the keen interest in data these years later, and they seemed to lack methods for carefully storing and sharing that information. That is a number and year often cited, but hard to verify," Pashley said.

Nationwide, police departments experienced an 18% increase in resignations and a 45% increase in retirements from April 2020 through March 2021, when compared with the same time period from the previous year, according to a June survey by the Police Executive Research Forum. PERF received 194 responses to the survey, which was conducted from May 10 to May 21. The margin of error for the survey was unknown, and representatives for PERF did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner.

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Portland has been the site of some of the largest social justice demonstrations since last year, particularly in the wake of several deaths of those in police custody, which have attracted attention from the Black Lives Matter movement.

Far-left protesters have also been critical of Wheeler, who faced mounting pressure to resign over accusations that he didn't do enough to clamp down on police use of force or stop growing violence. Last year, protesters lobbied the Portland City Council to cut $50 million from its police department, but the council only reduced the department's budget by $16 million.

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Tags: News, Portland, Oregon, Police, murder

Original Author: Mike Brest

Original Location: Portland police struggling to fill patrol aimed at combating rising murder rate

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