Portland Mayor Backs Off "Defund The Police" Rhetoric

(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Portland was ground zero for much of last year’s unpleasantness. Not the COVID lockdowns, necessarily, but while riots settled down in most of the nation, Portland continued to burn night after night, all while the mob shouted things like, “Defund the police.”

Public officials in the city listened, too.

Now, as violent crime grips pretty much every city in the nation, it seems Portland is sounding very, very different.

Instead of defunding police, they’re not looking to increase their funding.

Months removed from protests in the streets and calls to defund – or even abolish – the Portland Police Bureau, the city is confronted by the stark reality of a staggering increase in crime and violence.

As the Portland City Council prepares to update the city’s budget, city leaders say there’s a renewed political will to refund the police.

In September, Mayor Ted Wheeler proposed providing funding for a “Retire/Rehire” program, which would incentivize PPB officers near retirement to stay with the bureau.  In addition, Commissioner Mingus Mapps said he’ll propose adding funding for body worn cameras, expanding the Portland Street Response Program to lighten the police bureau’s calls for service load, and doubling the size of the police bureau’s Behavioral Health Unit.

Wait, Ted Wheeler proposed that?

Interesting. After all, Wheeler was singing a different tune last year.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pledged the city will divert $12 million from the police bureau and other city departments to directly support communities of color, defund three police units including the gun violence reduction team and ban officers from using chokeholds as part of plans to reform the Portland Police Bureau.

During a news conference Tuesday, Wheeler said details of these plans and others are in the works and that Portland’s black community has demanded the changes for years. The mayor acknowledged that he should have acted sooner.

“My privilege as a white man, my privilege as the mayor and the leader of the institutions of power in this community I believe shielded me from time to time from the many difficult and uncomfortable truths about our history and about our society,” he said. Wheeler is also the police commissioner.

It seems Wheeler recognized there was a mistake made.

However, he won’t own up to it and admit that he shouldn’t have listened to the mob because they didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.

As we can see, Wheeler delivered on at least part of his promise, yet crime soared. Is it really surprising?

Now, he’s saying the opposite and probably hoping no one will remember that he’s part of why the department was defunded in the first place. Unfortunately for him, we do remember and the internet is forever.

There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake, but you need to admit it. Wheeler, however, is a politician, and to admit he was wrong would be career suicide. I don’t know if just backtracking is going to be any better in the long run, though.

What’s really sad is that I can see an opponent hitting Wheeler from the left over this one, even though his move now makes a lot more sense than defunding the police ever was. Still, police are the bad guys to a lot of folks, so this is just the world we live in.