According to a greeting scrawled in white spray paint on a highway sign heading downtown, “Mayhem” awaits you in Portland, Oregon. Almost every off-ramp along the way has more graffiti, abandoned cars, and trash-covered encampments.
“It saddens me for the people who were born and raised here that their city has devolved into this. This is not the essence of Portland “said Daryl Turner, executive director of the Portland Police Association and a 30-year veteran of the Portland Police Department.
Portland’s reputation has suffered as a result of more than 100 days of rioting last year. According to the Urban Land Institute, the city was the third most desirable real estate market in the United States in 2017. This year, it fell to 66th place. KOIN, a local television station, is now asking, “Is Portland Over?”
“Downtown is like a ghost town now during the day and at night,” Turner said. “It’s almost unbearable to be in the Old Town area at any time. The city has changed so drastically that it resembles some of the apocalyptic films you see on TV “Turner stated.
The mayor’s office claims that the pandemic is to blame for much of downtown’s plight. Mayor Ted Wheeler’s budget includes $5.7 million for citywide cleanup, graffiti removal, and a program to provide jobs for homeless people, but it also includes a call to cut another $3 million from the police department.
Despite a recent poll showing that a majority of Portland residents oppose the push to reduce police presence in the city, the budget was recently approved by city council.
“Everybody here is afraid that they are going to be vilified,” said one active-duty officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press. “City Hall has basically said that it is not good politics to give the police money.”
The Portland Police Bureau’s morale is at an all-time low. According to the police union, 260 officers have quit or retired since 2018. Another ten people turned in their badges last month.
“Life wasn’t like this when I signed up to be a cop,” the 15-year veteran explained. “There is no incentive to arrest anybody at this point unless you’re a murderer.”
According to Turner, defunding and shrinking ranks have jeopardized public safety. He stated that response time to calls was about two and a half minutes eight years ago, but it is now more than eight minutes.
“I think there’s a road to redemption, but I think we’re hitting pretty close to bottom,” he said.