By Michael Bratland
Remember when Portland politicians and media cheerleaders used to boast about the Rose City’s “livability”?
Yeah, back in those days before the city’s exploding homeless crisis and the 2020 George Floyd/Antifa riots with the nightly craziness of the “protestors” and cravenness of police-defunding Portland officials. Portland, the self-proclaimed “City that Works” was leading the way for other big cities. Good times, right? Well, Portland’s still leading the way today, but this time it’s not in “livability.” It’s in what you might call “killability.”
That’s right, thanks in part to the anti-cop, defunding-the-police policies of Portland officials from Mayor Ted Wheeler (craven) to City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty (crazy) to Multnomah County District Attorney Schmidt (woke George Soros tool), Portland homicides skyrocketed since 2020. The Rose City killing increased at a higher rate than all other American cities. This is no small thing when you consider that 13 of the nation’s big cities (Rochester, Philadelphia, Columbus, Ohio, Baton Rouge, Austin, Albuquerque, Tucson, Louisville and St. Paul) shattered their homicide records last year. (It’s worth noting that, according to Forbes, at least 13 cities defunded their police by mid-August 2020. A coincidence? I don’t think so.) Homicides shot up 17 percent on average in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco. Portland witnessed an 83 percent rise in homicides in 2020.
And, in 2021, Portland racked up 90 homicides. That’s 24 more homicides than the city’s 1987 record. That’s more homicides than San Francisco and twice as many homicides as Seattle. This all comes, of course, after Wheeler and company cut the police budget by $27 million in June 2020. A full $15 million of the cuts came in response to the George Floyd riots; another $12 million came in pandemic-related budget reductions. Gone were school-resource officers, transit police and the gun-violence reduction team. Some 200 Portland cops have retired since August 2020. Low morale, lack of support from city officials and burnout from the nightly riot deployments – they were pretty clear about why they were leaving in their exit interviews. The result: The department is 128 officers below its authorized strength. A record shortage to match its record homicides. A coincidence? Again, I don’t think so.
How bad is in Portland? So bad that Mayor Wheeler had to admit that Portlanders “no longer feel safe.” So bad that Portland police are being taken off other assignments – addressing out-of-control property crimes, for example – to help out on homicide investigations. So bad that Wheeler and the city council decided in November 2021 to bump up the police budget by … $5.2 million.
Portland, of course, was a part of a national epidemic of police “defunding” back in 2020 and it is now part of national re-funding police campaign by the same anti-cop officials. These folks should be submitting their resignations and sending letters of apology to their publics. Instead, they’re resubmitting police budgets and pretending 2020 never happened. In fact, some hitherto police-defunders are now strutting their stuff as “tough-on-crime” champions. San Francisco Mayor London Breed is now promising an “aggressive” “police presence” to end “the reign of criminals who are destroying our city.” All this “refunding” little more than a year after she proposed shifting $120 million from law-enforcement agencies to San Francisco’s African- American community. Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, the nation’s murder capitol, asked for federal help in combatting the recent explosion of crime and gun violence there. This but a year after slashing the Windy City’s police budget by $80 million.
What’s most maddening is that the actions that the police-defunders and cop-bashers took largely hurt the very people they said they wanted to help. The gun violence has disproportionately hit communities of color. In Portland, according the PBS News Hour, families of homicide victims and those working with young gang members have questioned the cutbacks and sought an increased police presence.
It was all so tragic. And so predictable. Of course, not all the dead bodies in Portland and elsewhere were the result of the police funding cuts or the anti-police sentiment. There were other contributing factors – DA charging decisions, so-called “bail-reform,” get-out-of-jail free policies, the Covid pandemic. But too much of what we’re seeing is not having enough cops on the beat and the demoralization of the ones who are there.
Maybe it’s too much to ask for letters of resignation or apologies from today’s politicians. But, rather than tough words, it would be nice if officials like Wheeler and Breed and Lightfoot simply acknowledged they were wrong or craven or both back in 2020 when their knees were jerking, and they were beating up on cops.
Dr. Michael Bratland is a dentist and owner of Crisdental in Eugene, Oregon