Union representing the city’s park rangers demands city provide Level II-A body armor
Portland, OR has been the site of antifa violence for well over a year and is already on track to shatter its 2020 murder toll—the highest the city had seen in 26 years. Despite this, Portland’s leadership embraces the counter-intuitive, hugely unpopular, dangerous and destructive “defund the police” mantra of BLM and assorted leftist Marxist and anarchist groups.
The shocking lack of support for the city’s police has resulted in officers leaving the force in droves. Attempting to look like they care about the violence that has infested their city, the city council approved $6 million to combat gun violence . . . and not one dime of it goes to the police.
There have been more than 250 shootings in Portland since the start of 2021, a major spike compared to the 111 shootings in the first few months of 2020. Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell knows how crucial it is to stop the violence.
“We know this work is important,” he said. “It’s some of the most important work we do ’cause it really impacts people’s lives and safety every day.”
Portland’s city council agrees. On Wednesday, it unanimously approved a $6 million plan aimed at tackling the spike in gun violence.
Not a penny of the $6 million will go to the Portland Police Bureau.
If you think that’s bad, just wait.
Part of that allocation goes to replace the Gun Violence Prevention team the city eliminated in the midst of ongoing riots and chaos with a new and improved (if smaller and civilian-led) gun violence prevention team. This toothless and expensive new version sounds like it will be about as effective in preventing gun violence as one might think.
The deal gives police no money but calls for the Portland Police Bureau to assemble a new gun violence team to replace the one eliminated last June, when the city defunded its police by $15 million in the midst of nightly social justice protests.
The new group will be called the Focus Intervention Team. It will be smaller than the former Gun Violence Reduction Team and will have civilian oversight. Police Chief Chuck Lovell said it might be tough to find officers who want to work on the FIT and it will create more staffing shortages elsewhere in the department.
“We’re so lean right now, it’s really hard to find a place where there’s a dozen officers to pull from,” Lovell said.
But wait, the mental giants on the city council have a plan for that! Instead of having actual police officers, armed and trained to deal with a variety of potentially dangerous and deadly circumstances, Portland is going to hire 24 unarmed park rangers to roam around writing tickets and being a discouraging presence for violent, armed criminals. I say, “unarmed,” but they will be fully equipped . . . with pepper spray and a radio.
No, this is not the Bee. It’s real, and it’s insane.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler flinched. In the midst of an unprecedented monthslong surge in gun violence and homicides, Wheeler compromised with the Portland City Council and backed off from his request that the Portland Police Bureau be appropriated $2 million in emergency funding. Instead, Wheeler and the commissioners voted to spend $6 million on grants to community groups already receiving funding and hire 24 park rangers.
“What we’re doing today is starting a pathway towards making sure that we’re investing dollars where they make the most good,” said Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. “We’re also at the front end of transforming our police department.”
. . . . The city’s decision to hire unarmed park rangers instead of more police is being widely criticized by those in law enforcement. Several rangers said they are not trained or equipped to intervene during armed conflicts. Jim Ferraris, president of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, served as a longtime officer in Portland and as a chief in a suburban police department. He says the Portland Police Bureau is one of the most understaffed department’s in the country and hiring park rangers won’t reduce gun violence.
“Park rangers aren’t really going to have an impact,” said Ferraris. “That’s not what they’re trained for, that’s not what they’re hired for, that’s not what they signed up for. They don’t even have ballistic vests for protection.”
Park rangers are equipped only with pepper spray and a radio. On April 3, two rangers were patrolling Chapman Square Park in downtown Portland where a man on a bike had just been hit with a round fired from a paint ball gun. The rangers were confronted by the suspect and chased out of the park. The man carried a machete and threatened to kill the rangers. Once they fled to safety, the rangers called police who came and arrested the suspect.
It doesn’t sound like they’ve found 24 willing park rangers to take on this impossible task because their union is demanding the city provide the prospective sitting ducks with body armor.
The union itself supports the city’s depolicing efforts but notes that uniformed city employees wandering around looking for trouble will find it and be mistaken for police officers.
The union representing Portland park rangers has responded to a City Hall plan to deploy rangers as “eyes on the ground” to discourage gun violence—by demanding body armor.
“In the last year, there has been an increased sense of hostility toward city employees,” writes LIUNA Local 483 organizer Ted Bryan. “We are worried by the number of assaults, attempted assaults, threats and harassment toward parks staff, including rangers.”
Bryan asks the Portland City Council to provide rangers with “Level II-A body armor to protect them from projectiles and stab threats.”
. . . . The union representing those rangers, LIUNA Local 483, had not weighed in until Wednesday, when it sent written testimony to the City Council. In the letter, Bryan says the union supports the city adding ranger jobs, but is concerned that the public will think rangers are now police officers.
Bryan reminds commissioners that rangers can only issue citations to people breaking park rules, and need police help to kick people out of parks.
“Our presence in uniform may act as a deterrent for behavior that is inappropriate in parks—however, for some members of the public, the presence of uniformed city employees inspires a hostile reaction,” Bryan writes. “We are not authorized, trained or equipped to intervene in violent situations, and certainly not in situations involving gun violence. We ask you to take this into account when considering the kinds of situations to which rangers may be safely and appropriately deployed.”
LIUNA Local 483 declined to comment further on the proposal or its letter. Rubio, who oversees Portland Parks & Recreation, says she is pleased the union supports the plan.
Well, as long as the union and the rangers themselves know that these unarmed park rangers can only issue citations . . . and call for police backup on their radios, all will be well. Right?DONATE
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