The Portland Police Bureau could be forced to make cuts to many of its programs during the upcoming budget cycle. Supporters of one such program – Crisis Response Team – say the services their volunteers provide to victims is too valuable to cut.
Members of the Crisis Response Team and some supporters gathered at the Northeast Precinct Thursday to talk to Branch Chief of Operations Brian Martinek about his support for the community resource.
The Crisis Response Team is a group of trained volunteers who respond to traumatic events and try to solve situations that a uniformed police officer could not.
"The Crisis Response Team is the single-most valuable tool to come out of community policing efforts," said retired Officer Harry Jackson.
Although Martinek has little authority when it comes to budget decisions – he told the group that he was confused as to why he was singled out – CRT supporters wanted to build support among the bureau's leadership to sustain the program.
Martinek said the bureau is relying on a precinct restructuring plan to reduce the budget by about 3 percent. If the plan is approved by City Council, Portland will increase the number of officers on the street and operate three, instead of four, precincts. He raised the possibility that the Traumatic Intervention Team could possibly merge with CRT.
"In times of lean budgets, consolidating budgets just makes sense to me," he said.
If the CRT loses the ability to respond adequately in the community, it could mark the end of the community policing experiment. Already, a racial profiling report released earlier this year indicated that the community policing practice of having a "mere conversation" has been perceived as profiling in communities of color.
Robin Wisner, a longtime CRT volunteer and pastor for Under the Blood Ministries, says the team responds to situations where police officers simply couldn't. He says he responded to the family of Kendra James after an officer shot and killed the young woman in 2003. Having the police respond to that act would have made the situation worse, he says.
"Officers could not do what we have done," he says.
Minority communities – including the Latino, sexual minority and Asian/Pacific Islander – all benefit from volunteers who both represent those communities and the police department.
"It's an extension of the police bureau," Jackson said. "To take it away from these communties … is a complete disservice. This is a program of success. It's difficult to measure what doesn't happen."
The City Council will be holding a budget meeting on Tuesday from 9:30 to 11 a.m. That meeting will not be for public input. Mayor Sam Adams will release a proposed budget on April 28.