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Community groups react to Portland’s $6 million plan to curb violence

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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — On Wednesday, city commissioners unanimously approved a nearly $6 million plan to address the rising number of shootings and assaults in Portland.

The plan proposes the following:
• The Portland Police Bureau will internally realign resources to gain the patrol, analytic and investigative capacities PPB says it needs to combat gun violence.

• PPB will immediately add six additional assault investigative detectives and one sergeant to coordinate gun-related investigations working in partnership with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.

• The city’s new community safety transition director will lead the development of the gun violence prevention response plans and the community safety plan.

• $1.4 million will go to Portland Parks and Recreation to expand the Park Ranger Program. This will add 24 ranger patrols to be unarmed goodwill presences from May through December 2021.

• $4.1 million will go to community outreach groups in the form of grants to work in conjunction with the Office of Violence Prevention.

The city will also invest in a pilot program based on a summer ceasefire strategy policy in Oakland, California.

The plan gives no additional funding to the Portland Police Bureau.

Neighbors and community leaders have been pressing the city for solutions to the uptick in gun violence for months now, and some believe this is a promising start.

“We stand in total support of the direction that you’re taking today, we are grateful for the investments that are being made,” Pastor J. W. Matt Hennessee, founder of the Inter-Faith Peace and Action Collaborative, said during Wednesday’s meeting.

Hennessee said the approved plan will save lives. He’s been advocating for months to center gun violence reduction efforts around community outreach groups.

Jenny Lee with the Coalition of Communities of Color agrees with that approach.

“These partners are the experts in doing this work, they hold the relationships, they know who is vulnerable to involvement in gun violence and they know which interventions work to stop it,” Lee said.

Other community leaders hoped there would be some investment in the Portland Police Bureau. Randy Philbrick, who founded Portland for Positive Impact, told FOX 12 that the majority of the gun violence is gang related, and PPB already has programs in place to get kids off the wrong track.

“I spoke with Assistant Chief Resch with the Portland Police Bureau a couple of weeks ago, and some of the programs that these outreach groups want to create already exist within the Bureau,” Philbrick said.

Philbrick also thinks the $1.4 million earmarked for the Parks and Recreation department to hire 24 additional rangers through the Park Ranger Program isn’t going to deter criminal activity in parks.

“I know the level of respect they won’t get,” Philbrick said, explaining he worked as an unarmed security guard for 15 years. “We’re setting these guys up for failure.”

A Portland Parks and Recreation Emergency Manager also spoke during Wednesday’s city council meeting. Vicente Harrison said rangers do have specific skills and training that allows them to support street-level outreach workers, including de-escalation techniques, cultural competency and crisis management.

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