Portland police chief laments move to disband gun violence reduction team, as gun violence soars

Portland’s police chief is lamenting Mayor Ted Wheeler’s decision to shut down a gun violence reduction team — just as the city has seen a dramatic spike in shootings that the top cop described as “very, very alarming.”

“The loss of the gun violence reduction team, in particular, has a diminishing effect on how we’re able to investigate shootings, which is some of the most important crimes that we investigate,” Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said in a podcast. “So we still have to do that work and figuring out how we’re going to do that without the experience that that team had has been a bit of a challenge.”

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Lovell was responding to police numbers showing a dramatic spike in shootings in the city. As of July 12, there were 42 shootings in the city this month. (That’s compared with just 11 in that timeframe in 2019, according to KPTV.)

July looks set to dwarf previous months as well. According to the outlet, there were 59  shootings in the whole of June, and 46 in all of May.

Mayor Wheeler had abolished the unit as part of an “action plan to increase police accountability and reinvest in Black and Brown communities.” The plan, announced last month, promised to dissolve the team and “fundamentally re-shape our approach to reduce gun violence in collaboration with the Office of Youth Violence Prevention, District Attorney-elect, and other partners.”

Police Chief Lovell went on to say that the shootings are still being investigated, first by patrols before the investigations are moved to the detective division, “but not having that resource is concerning.”

“It remains to be seen what those numbers are going to trend to, but I’m fearful that that will have a negative impact on communities of color, especially,” he said, before calling the rise in shootings “very, very alarming.”

“We have detectives. We have officers who will go out and do the initial investigation and canvas on the scene. But we did lose a very valuable resource in the gun violence reduction team,” he said.

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The shootings come as Portland has been hit by a wave of protests and violence in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May. However, the shootings do not appear to be directly associated with those protests.

Those demonstrations have raged for six weeks straight, and local businesses have reported $23 million in losses due to looting and rioting that have gripped its downtown area since the end of May.

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Wheeler said that acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf called him on Tuesday to speak to him about the ongoing violence and how the government could help. Wheeler tweeted that he told Wolf “that my biggest immediate concern is the violence federal officers brought to our streets in recent days, and the life-threatening tactics his agents use.”

“We do not need or want their help,” he said.

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.