On February 9, Nike sent a letter to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and city officials asking for more police at their MLK Community Store, which has been closed for months because of ongoing retail theft, with the shoe brand even proposing to pay law enforcement directly if it would bring them the protection they were requesting.
According to KGW8, Nike proposed two options. The company was open to creating an "intergovernmental agreement" with the city of Portland to directly fund full-time police officers who would be selected to police the store. A second option would be to pay off-duty Portland Police Bureau officers as contracted security.
According to the Oregonian, Nike released a statement that said, "Because a safe and secure workplace is essential for our employees, consumers, and communities, we have proposed a sustained and coordinated partnership with the City to better protect employees, consumers, and the community surrounding our MLK Community Store."
Sarah Mensah, Nike's North America general manager, and chief security officer Joe Marsico said their company closed the MLK Community Store "in response to deteriorating public safety conditions and rapid escalation in retail theft.
The letter sent to Wheeler and Portland officials said "to date, the proposed solutions offered and the current public safety situation" did not leave any room for the store to reopen, leading to the company's new proposal.
Nike said that under their new plan, they would continue to hire private security in addition to the police. The difference is that the private security contracted by the company is not legally allowed to intervene physically in a retail theft crime, which is a common practice in American retail stores. The police would have the power to detain and arrest individuals caught in the commission of a crime.
The letter stated the company was "at a critical juncture" and "it is critical that one of these two models be made effective prior to May 1, 2023."
The company said they were evaluating "business decisions impacting retail operations" and may not be able to reopen the store, which first opened in 1984, without the city agreeing to one of the two proposals.
Local news reports that Portland community safety director Stephanie Howard said Nike's proposal was unlikely to move forward because of Portland Police Bureau staffing.
"We already rely heavily on OT to reach minimum staffing levels for regular shifts, so there is no way we could provide dedicated officers to any business, regardless of its willingness to pay for the costs," Howard said.
Howard added, "Resuming secondary employment might be possible eventually if we can clear the DPSST backlog, which is the largest hurdle to our restaffing efforts."
The DPSST backlog refers to the lack of new police recruits in Portland who have passed the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.
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