PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland police said Friday they’ve created a specialized team of officers and detectives to focus full time on shooting investigations in response to a jump in gun violence in the last year.
The Enhanced Community Safety Team will be comprised of three sergeants, 12 officers and six detectives, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. They’ll staff a seven member on-call unit to respond to shooting scenes, examine evidence, interview witnesses and do immediate follow-up investigations.
Sergeants will determine when to send out the on-call officers, Deputy Chief Chris Davis said.
The move is what Police Chief Chuck Lovell proposed in a December memo to Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as police commissioner. Wheeler two weeks ago expressed support for the plan.
The estimated cost is $153,348 through June and $306,695 next fiscal year for a total of $460,043. Though a specific source of the funding hasn’t been identified, the first on-call response occurred Thursday, when a sergeant, two detectives and four officers responded to a shooting in North Portland, Davis said.
“We didn’t want to wait because of the urgent need,” Davis said. He acknowledged the Police Bureau would have preferred to have rolled out such a team much earlier as shootings rose last summer.
The city recorded 55 homicides in 2020, the highest number in 26 years. Forty-one of those resulted from gun violence, according to the Police Bureau.
The new team’s focus will be on identifying and arresting what police suspect is a “narrow” group of repeat shooters, Davis said.
It will be different from the disbanded Gun Violence Reduction Team in that it will focus on the investigative side after shootings and less on uniformed patrol and interdiction, Davis said. The City Council last summer called for the elimination of the Gun Violence Reduction Team, citing concerns about the disproportionate arrests of people of color.