Today City Council voted to adopt the city’s FY2020-21 budget, which included cutting $27 million in total from the Portland Police Bureau’s budget. This includes a $15 million reduction by defunding several specialty units with the most racially unjust practices and outcomes, and a $12 million reduction in response to the Mayor’s call for a 5.6% budget reduction for all General Fund bureaus. All in all, the Portland Police Bureau’s final adopted budget is 6% less than last year’s budget, on par with the City of Los Angeles’s police budget reduction percentage. What we did with the budget was considered unimaginable two weeks ago. What we did has never been done before in this city; what we’re about to do also has never been done before. And I don’t want to diminish that victory.
Police have driven the narrative of public safety and we have long been following that narrative, but we’re not going to do that anymore. There’s a demand to build a system that imagines alternatives to policing, and that’s what we began building beginning with last year’s budget, which allocated $500,000 to the Portland Street Response pilot – a non-police response to calls for houselessness and behavioral health crises.
With the $15 million from defunding the Gun Violence Reduction Team, School Resource Officers, Transit Officers, and eliminating 8 positions on the Special Emergency Response Team, we will be reallocating those funds to fund:
✔️ $4.8 million for Portland Street Response, a program aimed at decriminalizing houseless and behavioral health crises and decreasing police interactions by sending non-police response to those types of 9-1-1 calls
✔️ $1 million for participatory budgeting process with the houseless community
✔️ $1 million for leadership development program for Black youth aged 25 and under
Additionally, by redirecting $2.3 million in recreational cannabis tax revenue from funding the police bureau’s traffic division, we will instead fund:
✔️ $453,000 in social equity grants through the Office of Community and Civic Life
✔️ $150,000 for hiring another tribal outreach worker in the Office of Government Relations.
✔️ $124,000 for a position in the Office of Equity & Human Rights to ensure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits public money from being spent in discriminatory ways.
❗ The remaining will be put back into contingency, with the intention for the community to determine how to use the funds, specifically our Black community.
Never in my life would I have imagined we could cut so much so quickly out of a police budget. It wasn’t even possible to get a fraction of those cuts one year ago when I proposed defunding some of the specialty units that were finally eliminated this budget cycle.
I understand the disappointment that council did not get to the $50 million reduction, but I strongly believe that just because the reduction goal wasn’t reached it doesn’t mean the community wasn’t successful or didn’t have an impact. If it were not for the emails, calls, testimony, protests, and conversations with advocates, I truly do not believe we would have gotten to where we were today.
I also want to be clear: I don’t mind being pushed. Your role as advocates is to push us beyond what we believe we can do, and my role is to ask you the hard questions to get the best outcome as possible. We didn’t get to the same place on this one, but it doesn’t mean we won’t in the future. I’m going to take your pushes to each future policy conversation and that means I need you to be the sharpest advocates you can be in providing the analysis to convince me, so that I can then convince my colleagues.
As I’ve said before, police accountability neither begins nor ends with the budget and I remain as committed as before to continue addressing the entire criminal justice system as a whole.